Waste water plant licks problems $10 million upgrade solves pesky odours, has fertilizer end product By Chris Woodall After some tinkering with the state-of-the-art ATAD system (can you say "autothermal thermophilic aerobic digesters" three times very fast?) the $10 million upgrade of the waste water treatment plant is declared a done event, says plant manager Cliff Jennings. The upgrade was done over the last year. The ATAD system allows bacteria to change organic solids in the stuff from your toilet or kitchen sink to carbon dioxide, methane and ammonia, leaving about 2,000 cubic metres of biosolids a year when all is said and done. The system, however, needed some inspired manhandling when it was discovered that the manufacturer hadn't pointed directional arrows, to indicate which way the air was to flow. In essence, the ATAD was blowing instead of sucking, with the result that odours weren't being eliminated from the treatment process. Now that that’s been corrected plant staff can begin promoting the biosolids. "The biosolids meet the highest standards of the Ministry of Environment with respect to metals, pathogens and other characteristics," the municipal public works report on the plant's biosolids says of poisonous or nasty stuff that might be lurking in the end product. Recycling what we poop is not new in the large scheme of things, but it still strikes Joe or Jane Doe as a surprise that they can pop down to the waste treatment plant for a garbage pail of biosolids to make their lawn or garden the envy of Whistler. "Biosolids have been used around the world as a high-quality compost for hundreds of years," says the public works report. Kelowna, markets its biosolids, under the name "Ogo-grow," to landscaping companies. In Whistler, landscape companies have been regular visitors to pick up biosolids by the truckload to fertilize new lawns or tree planting projects. The municipality has been using tons of our "distillate" for some time to feed flower beds and the general greening of the resort. That didn't happen this past year, however, because construction at the waste water treatment plant made it difficult to get at the prized end product, Jennings explains. "There's lots available," Jennings says of a product for which there is usually greater demand than supply. The biosolids are mixed with wood chips, including your discarded Christmas trees. This bulks up the potential fertilizer and helps cut down on smells that might develop if the biosolids sat around on its own. Not that the biosolids collected over the past year will be ignored. Although "contaminated" with rock from the summer's construction work, this lot is destined for the landfill site to cover full garbage pits. The "new" stuff is piling up even as we speak through these news pages, but Jennings says there's no point in coming on down now to get your share unless you can apply it directly to your garden. For a really big job, the treatment plant will sell you the biosolid fertilizer for $5 a cubic metre, but the average person won't need much more than a plastic pail full, for which there's no charge, Jennings says. At pH8, the fertilizer may be too basic for plants who prefer a more acid soil. One thing's for sure, considering the Whistler source for this natural resource the waste water treatment plant won't run out altogether. "We're always producing more," Jennings says.