Posted on 17 October 2012 by Keith Lacey
Town of Osoyoos council has delayed issuing the tender to expand a storage pond for reclaimed water in a sandpit near the Desert Park racetrack facility until the first week in November and will hold a public hearing in late October before making any final decision after a group of neighbours who own homes near the Osoyoos Golf and Country Club strenuously objected to the plan.
Mayor Stu Wells, Ron Doucette, the town’s director of operational services, and Terry Underwood, an engineer who works for True Consulting and who has been doing engineering work for the Town of Osoyoos for more than 30 years, met with a group of those same neighbours last Wednesday to listen to their concerns the day after council and staff made a decision to delay granting the construction tender and hold a public hearing.
The public hearing will be held on Thursday, Oct. 25 at the Osoyoos Golf and Country Club from 4 – 6 p.m.
Three weeks ago, Doucette informed members of council that the town’s two main effluent (reclaimed water) storage tanks, located near the landfill, are running near capacity and large volumes of effluent has to be dumped elsewhere.
A report from True Engineering identified expanding the sandpit area, where effluent has been dumped since the mid-1980s, as the best solution. The $150,000 contract to expand the sandpit was supposed to be granted Oct. 4, but council met in-camera last Tuesday and decided to delay it until Nov. 1.
Last week’s meeting was held at the home of Craig and Pat Nairn. Craig Nairn originally voiced his concerns about the town’s plans to expand the sandpit dumping area during a town council meeting held on Oct. 2.
The town’s plan includes dumping 1,000 cubic metres of effluent for 165 days at the expanded sandpit site, which would result in bad odours affecting the quality of life for residents who own homes in the Dividend Ridge subdivision near Osoyoos Golf and Country Club, said Nairn.
Wells told the neighbours time was of the essence when they initially approved the plan as Doucette made it clear this was an emergency situation that had to be taken care as quickly as possible.
In retrospect, council should have held a public hearing on this issue before making any final decision, said Wells.
“There are some things we didn’t do and we probably could have quelled a lot of the angst if we had done certain things (public hearing),” he said. “Having said that … we haven’t made a final decision and we won’t until after that hearing takes place.
“The tender will not be let and council is remaining open minded and seeking input … before we have to make a final decision.”
Wells commented on several occasions during the meeting that the town’s long-term plans for dumping excess effluent will be concentrated on running new lines near the Osoyoos Airport and on large tracts of Crown land located near the landfill site.
However, the short-term problem of finding a place to dump effluent from the storage tanks before next spring remains and council has no choice but the find a temporary solution in the next few weeks, he said.
The group of neighbours, led by Nairn, said they understand the storage tanks have to greatly reduce capacity, but the sandpit location remains a poor choice.
“I think I can speak for everyone here when I say we are all still adamantly opposed to this project going down here (sandpit site),” said Nairn.
Underwood said the town has been dumping excess roughly 80,000 cubic metres of excess effluent at the sandpit site since 1985, which many of the neighbours didn’t realize.
Only once in the past 30 years has the town been faced with its current dilemma to get rid of massive amounts of excess effluent from its lagoon storage tanks, said Underwood.
“We picked the sandpit because it was there and has been used for 30 years … it was the logical choice,” he said.
The two storage ponds are 60 per cent full, instead of the usual 50 per cent, which would create huge problems if there is a lot of rain this coming spring, said Doucette.
Nairn suggested the town use huge storage bladders located near Osoyoos Secondary School to hold the excess effluent.
“Why can’t we use the bladders by the school?” he asked. “The area is already bermed and partially fenced … we all feel the place you’re looking at is the wrong place to put it.”
Wells said those bladders are used to carry sludge, not effluent.
Wells said he can’t speak for council, but he’s confident this problem won’t be as dramatic next time as there are plans to expand lines to get rid of effluent near the airport and landfill site in the next two to three years.
However, that won’t address the problem of having to get rid of more than 160,000 cubic metres of effluent in the next few months.
“We are going to go to the airport and use the Crown land by the landfill across from the Desert Centre … but if we run into the same scary spring that we had last year, then we’re in trouble,” he said. “We have an immediate need.”
Underwood said another option is burying the effluent underground near the sandpit area, but this would cost substantially more money.
Wells said council has a tough decision to make in the next two to three weeks.
“There’s definitely a re-think going on here, but I don’t know if it’s going to make you all happy,” he said. “I’m personally still looking at all options, but I also know what the timing is on this and we have to make a decision soon.”
At Monday’s committee of the whole meeting, Nairn thanked Wells, Underwood and Doucette for speaking to him and his neighbours, while reiterating their objections to expanding the sandpit site and dumping more effluent there.
Dumping the excess effluent near the bladder bag site makes much more sense, said Nairn.
He and his neighbours are convinced the long-term plan is to eventually turn the sandpit site into a permanent storage lagoon, said Nairn.
“We’ve got a hell of a huge problem with that,” he said. “If this was just a temporary solution, I don’t think you would be spending $150,000 unless you had plans for a long-term use.”
Nairn said he expects a huge number of Osoyoos residents to show up at the public meeting to voice their concerns.
“You will see how many people are upset and it’s not just us … but people from all over the RDOS,” he said.
Wells said he and every member of council will consider all options and no final decision will be made until after the public hearing is held and cost estimates for all options are prepared by Underwood.