By Alison Taylor
Soil samples taken from the ditches along Alta Lake Road show
that roughly 60 per cent of the septic systems on the stretch of road may be
The results were gathered after a recent municipal study and
will now form the backbone of an application to the provincial government for
grant money to build a sewer line to 39 single family lots along that road.
“This is the most conclusive test,” said the municipality’s
general manager of environmental services Brian Barnett.
And though there is no evidence to prove whether the sewage is
leaking into Alta Lake, there is reason to suspect that may be happening.
“We suspect that poorly treated wastewater would be entering
into the lake but, based on the data we’ve got, it wouldn’t be causing any
significant health concerns,” said Barnett.
With council’s blessing staff is now moving ahead with two
grant applications to the British Columbia Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund.
The federal, provincial and local governments will each contribute $51 million
to the fund, which is designed to improve municipal and rural infrastructure
throughout the province.
Whistler is submitting applications for two projects, the
maximum allowed, to be considered for grant funding.
In addition to the Alta Lake sewer line, the municipality is
also looking for funding to deliver several major water distribution projects
over the next three years. Those include groundwater wells at Rainbow Park, an
ultra-violet disinfection system for 21-Mile Creek, a new water main to the
village and a new reservoir. The total cost for these projects is roughly $12
It is not clear how much a new sewer line to Alta Lake will
In the 2006 municipal budget it was estimated to cost more than
$3.2 million, but with construction costs rising in recent years that budget is
most likely outdated.
If the grant application is successful it will cover two-thirds
of the project and the municipality and the Alta Lake residents will split the
“Our job is to prove the need and lobby the province to partner
with us in developing infrastructure that addresses the problem,” said Mayor
The municipality has applied twice for provincial funding, in
1999 and 2005, and been rejected both times, much to the dismay of the
residents who are the last remaining homeowners in Whistler unconnected to the
municipal sewer system. Those residents have been lobbying the municipality for
a sewer line for several years.
The mayor asked Barnett at the meeting if staff has any
confidence the Alta Lake sewer grant request would be successful.
“We don’t have any feedback yet,” he replied.
The deadline for applications is Jan. 31. All funding
commitments will be made by the summer and projects must be completed by the
end of March 2010.
Meanwhile, with high volumes of visitor traffic in the resort
over the holiday season, Whistler’s sewage treatment plant was working
There were periods over the holidays when the effluent was
above the limits specified in Whistler’s permit. Barnett explained that even
though the effluent is still treated before going into the Cheakamus River, the
total suspended solids was higher than allowed.
“If we didn’t have those periods of spikes and problems then
there’d be no reason to make an upgrade to the sewage treatment plant,” said
Whistler is working on a multi-million dollar plant upgrade that will allow it to meet the demands in the high season and also eliminate the smell of the plant at the property line.