It’s taken more than a decade, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in studies, but Whistler finally has proof that its sewage treatment plant is not a significant contributor to phosphorus in the Cheakamus River. Now BC Hydro, the Ministry of Environment and Squamish residents may have to be convinced of the findings. The $120,000 study, initiated in 1996 by Limnotek Research and Development on behalf of the municipality, was intended to establish the relationship between phosphorus that is discharged from Whistler’s treatment plant into the Cheakamus River and algae growth in the lower reaches of the river. The study concluded that the amount of periphyton (algae material) in the lower Cheakamus River will not be altered by upgrading Whistler’s treatment plant. The main sources of phosphorus in the lower portion of the river are Rubble Creek and the Daisy Lake dam, which retains 47 per cent of all biologically available phosphorus that enters from upstream. The direct consequences of the study’s findings are that Whistler may be able to save $4 million, because phosphorus-reducing technology planned for the treatment plant would have an inconsequential effect on algae growing in the lower reaches of the river, even at buildout. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has recently ordered BC Hydro to release more water from the Daisy Lake reservoir into the lower Cheakamus, to protect fish and spawning habitat. However, there is still some question as to whether Hydro will meet the discharge requirements. "I sat on the committee that received the (Ministry of Environment’s) 1985 study, which suggested Whistler’s phosphorus discharge was contributing to algae growth," Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said Monday. "We said ‘no, it’s not Whistler, just open the dam to allow more water out.’ "Now, 13 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars later and we find we were right," Wilhelm-Morden said. Brian Barnett, Whistler’s manager of environmental services, will be meeting with Hydro and the Ministry of Environment to share and discuss the results of the study. Municipal staff will also be discussing the value of the proposed $4 million phosphorus-reducing technology in light of the study.