Sludge buildup continues to be a problem at the water treatment plant in Bracebridge.
The Lagoon Lane Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) was opened in Bracebridge in 2011. The treatment process from the plant creates sludge which is deposited through a single discharge point. Normally there would be several discharge points but time and cost constraints resulted meant that only one was constructed. Since the completion of the WWTP, sludge handling has presented operational challenges.
Small island-like clusters of sludge have built up which can become exposed, creating severe odour issues in the surrounding area. The exposure of sludge is not permitted under the facilities environmental compliance approval.
On a previous occasion sludge was successfully covered after subcontractors were brought in. But in 2021 and 2022 efforts to remove sludge failed due to equipment failures. The sludge was finally brought under control in 2023.
The total cost for work on the sludge issue in 2023 was $86,000 dollars. One issue with the sludge clearing work is that there is only one company in Ontario which provides the required services.
District Chair Jeff Lehman stated that he felt exposed sludge should represent a local emergency. If this was the case district staff would be able to bring in sub-contractors without first having to bring the request before the committee.
“I actually would see this as sort of an emergency situation. There’s obvious community impacts from the odour,” Lehman said.
Commissioner of Engineering and Public Works James Steele responded that the fault lies with staff for not detecting the problem earlier and that this was the key factor in the delayed response. When asked if there was anything that could be done to solve the sludge problem Steele stated that they were looking at rectifying the single discharge point.
“It certainly wasn’t intended to have a single point of discharge for the sludge into that single lagoon. So we’re looking to allow sort of the original intent of the design which will help to mitigate it,” Steele said.
But Steele admitted that solutions to the problem are long-term and that in the short-term monitoring the sludge will be key.
“I would say we’re looking at what are the best options in the long term. But in the near term will be either removing the slides or just closely monitoring operations to make sure that it doesn’t get to the point where it is or was before we solved the problem,” Steele said.
Steele was questioned about community complaints from Huntsville regarding odours from Mountview Wastewater Treatment Plant. He stated that the Mountview plant has suffered mechanical failure and that staff are working diligently to restore functionality to the plant. He stated that the high temperatures and issues with the plant have created pronounced odours and that repair activity is underway.
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