Effluent discharge could be approved

Vernon could be given the green light to pump treated effluent into Okanagan Lake

Vernon could be given the green light to pump treated effluent into Okanagan Lake.

During an update on the liquid waste management plan review, council members were told there would be few legislative hurdles to stop reclaimed waste water from being discharged into the lake.

“There is a high likelihood of (receiving) a yes from the Ministry of Environment,” said Ehren Lee, with Urban Systems, the consulting firm overseeing the review.

An outfall pipe was installed in Okanagan Lake in the late 1980s despite strong opposition from some residents and environmental groups.

The only discharge occurred in 1996 because a wet summer delayed irrigation of waste water on fields and  the reservoir level had to be reduced.

A similar situation arose in 2008 and the city faced legal action from Save Our Lakes. Ultimately, a discharge was not required.

The city recently held a public open house on the proposed liquid waste management plan.

Thirty-five people attended and 24 completed questionnaires.

Of those, 78 per cent agreed with a discharge if the waste water meets provincial standards.

Eighty-one  per cent expressed concern about the pumping costs related to the land-based spray irrigation program ($550,000 in power costs in 2011).

Coun. Bob Spiers isn’t sure how much focus should be placed on the questionnaire results.

“It’s a very small sample size of the community,” he said.

Lee points out that any discharge into the lake would only be for surplus treated effluent not used by the spray irrigation program.

“That (surplus) will depend on the year. In a wet year, up to 50 per cent could be excess but in a dry year, there could be little excess,” he said.

As part of the process, the consultant is determining the potential impact of a discharge on a variety of areas, including water quality and fish and plant life.

Coun. Juliette Cunningham understands there are public concerns but says the potential for discharges should be considered.

“The water quality would be pretty high that we would be discharging,” she said.

A draft report on the liquid waste management review could be before council by Dec. 31.


Vernon Morning Star