The Comox Valley Water Pollution Control Centre treats sewage (wastewater) from businesses and residences in Comox, Courtenay and CFB Comox. Photo courtesy of the CVRD

The Comox Valley Water Pollution Control Centre treats sewage (wastewater) from businesses and residences in Comox, Courtenay and CFB Comox. Photo courtesy of the CVRD

Comox Valley Sewage Commission approves odour upgrades at treatment plant

Area B residents living near the Water Pollution Control Centre on Brent Road received some welcome news Tuesday when the Comox Valley Sewage Commission approved additional odour upgrades to the facility.

The plant treats sewage from Courtenay, Comox and CFB Comox. Following study work, analysis and community consultation, the commission approved $7 million to cover bioreactors and to install a new, larger wet chemical scrubber to treat additional odorous air. The regional district says odour dispersion modelling shows these measures will bring odours down to a minimally detectable level for residents living near the treatment plant.

“Our association is happy, but we’re a little angry that they didn’t do this earlier when they knew they had to do it,” said Jenny Steel, spokesperson for the Curtis Road Residents Association (CRRA). “They’ve known from 2016 that they had to do it.”

She notes that potential issues remain with an equalization basin planned for a buffer zone between residential properties and the Water Pollution Control Centre.

“It hasn’t actually been in use yet,” Steel said. “We’re happy that they’re going to cover the main source of the odour, the bioreactors.”

Sewage Commission chair David Frisch thanks the neighbours for their patience.

“Balancing the demands on our services is not easy, and it was important to take the time to conduct a fulsome study and analysis before making such a significant investment,” Frisch said in a news release. “We are confident this is the right decision, both for the sewage service and for the neighbours whose quality of life has been negatively impacted by the treatment plant.”

For many years, neighbours have been fed up with smells emanating from the plant. A legal settlement in the 1990s led to $7 million in improvements. Odorous tanks were covered, a wet chemical scrubber was installed and biosolids were removed to the landfill. However, some odours continued to persist. In 2013, the commission directed staff to further study the issue and to recommend additional mitigation measures. In 2018, $2 million was invested to cover the primary clarifier and to install an activated carbon polisher. Following continued complaints from neighbours, additional modelling and analysis was completed last year, which resulted in Tuesday’s decision.

Last fall, the CRRA gave the commission a deadline of Nov. 15 to commit to fixing the problem. The group had threatened to file a complaint with provincial authorities, and to prepare for legal action.

The CVRD says there is no need for an alternate approval process or referendum based on the estimated $7 million in costs, to be funded by reserves. The impact to taxpayers is estimated at $35 a year for 20 years.

Construction is expected to be complete by summer 2021.

The commission directed staff to consider implementing interim measures to minimize odours during construction.

Along with the upgrades, a two-tier odour standard in line with Victoria, Vancouver and other B.C. jurisdictions will be implemented. An upper “design” limit will be set at five Odour Units at the treatment plant property line. A decision will be made on a lower “operational” limit once upgrades are in place, and follow-up odour sampling and dispersion modelling is complete.


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