Trying to deal with all this crap On a busy winter weekend 30,000 people can be in the Whistler Valley — that's a lot of showers and flushes — and the sewage treatment plant is running at capacity at those periods. It's time to talk frankly about waste, says Rhona Hunter, an environmental engineer with the Resort Municipality of Whistler. "Whistler is at a point in its development where we have to seriously look at expanding the existing facility to meet the needs of today and be prepared with the realities of tomorrow," Hunter says. The present facility, located just south of Function Junction, is a major part of the RMOW's Wastewater Management Plan, passed by council last year after substantial debate and public input. The tertiary treatment facility is one of the most advanced in the province, but Hunter says a planned $10-15 million upgrade would double the size of the plant and put Whistler at an advanced treatment phase and at the cutting edge of sewage treatment in B.C. Funding for the project, part of a $32 million application the RMOW made through the federal-provincial infrastructure upgrade program, is expected to be announced within weeks as the municipality prepares to break ground on major projects like the treatment plant expansion this spring. Last week, Squamish received $5.1 million to upgrade the Mamquam Sewage Treatment Facility. To date, 39 infrastructure works projects in B.C., worth $39 million, have been announced. Hunter says because of the scope of the $32 million application made by the RMOW, it my be taking decision makers a little longer to make the announcement. Along with the treatment plant upgrade, the infrastructure application included plans to service Emerald Estates and Alta Lake Road residents. Whistler's state of the art treatment facility uses three steps to remove solid waste from sewage. Hunter says the biggest part of the upgrade would be to approximately double the capacity of the plant, add a biological odour scrubber to remove the smell which sometimes drifts up the valley to the village, and eliminate the need for chlorine treatment of effluent discharged into the Cheakamus River. "Any time you have to deal with chlorine it is sketchy because it has to be removed before the treated effluent is returned back to the system," she says. The wastewater treatment plant uses bacteria in most cases to remove solid waste from sewage. With terms like autothermic thermophilic digestion involved it's easy to see the treatment of sewage has gone high tech. The plant introduces bacteria into the wastewater which then digest the solid matter and die, leaving environmentally benign, treated waste water behind. The planned expansion would add another biological step to the process, replacing the chlorination process with ultraviolet treatment of effluent before it is discharged, taking the plant beyond the tertiary treatment description into the area of what Hunter calls "advanced wastewater treatment." Simply put, more biological treatment, like bacterial digestion of biosolids and the ultraviolet treatment phase eliminates the need for chemicals and creates an environmentally sensitive treatment facility. Techno terms aside, the entire process is relatively simple according to Hunter. "We put solids in the water and before the water can go back into the environment we have to remove them and clean the water. We are doing a very good job of that right now, but the time has come to realize we are going to be putting more solids in the water as the resort grows so we have to be prepared to upgrade to do a very good job of removing them in the future. "It gets very expensive to start eliminating parts of the system that are already in place, so what we want to do is take the best features of our present system, enhance and expand them," she says. "To try and rebuild a building already in existence would probably cost over $1 million in concrete costs alone.