Lagoon upgrade could cost $34 million, city applying for grants

HUMBOLDT — A much-needed upgrade to the city’s wastewater treatment lagoon would cost around $34 million, according to a preliminary design developed by Stantec Consulting.

At its meeting on Feb. 24, Humboldt council voted to accept the design and use the information as part of its application to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.

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“We know that our current situation with wastewater treatment is we're maxed out,” said Coun. Lorne Prachler, who was serving as deputy mayor. “We are at a point where our discharge into Humboldt Lake, which is a fish bearing body of water, is not meeting environmental standards anymore.”

The design, a submerged aerated growth reactor (SAGR) system, would be able to deal with wastewater for a city of 10,000. It was selected because the upfront costs and maintenance were relatively cheap compared to other options, as well as a potential to expand it easily in the future.

The system is estimated to cost $505,000 a year to run. In May 2019, council was told it requires $206,000 a year to run the current system.

The current traditional lagoon system cannot be expanded because it would result in too much ammonia leaking into Humboldt Lake to meet environmental standards.

Prachler said the new system would address the current problems the city is facing, plus allow for expansion in the future.

“We don't know where we're going to be in 10 years, 30 years or 50 years but we do know that if we get to that level of 10,000 population, we can look after it with what we are proposing.”

Prachler said it’s important to remember that the $34 million is not the final price. He said he’s hoping that changes can be made to the system to reduce costs and that tenders come in lower than estimated.

“We're on the first part of the process and we have to keep in mind, this isn't the accrual of any construction at this point. This isn't approval of anything. There's going to be decisions made later on down the road.”

The city is applying to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program to help pay for the project. It is estimating that it could receive $13.3 million from the federal government and $11.3 million from the provincial government, leaving the city with a $9.4 million bill.

“If we don't get grants, I would think it would have to be put on hold,” Prachler said. “I really don't think those numbers and the cost of doing this is something we could bear on our own.”

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