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The tapped out federal/provincial infrastructure program that has left Pemberton without funds to upgrade its sewage treatment plant has also put Whistler in a difficult situation. Environmental engineer Rhona Hunter told council Monday some emergency improvements to Whistler's sewage treatment plant are required to meet the existing loads on the plant and to ensure operational safety. "However, due to increased organic loads and the fixed capacity of the plant, the effluent quality can be expected to decrease and the 5-day biochemical oxygen demand, total suspended solids and phosphorus will exceed existing permit limits," Hunter wrote. The emergency improvements will be done this year — at a cost of $220,000 — but because there will be no funds from the federal/provincial infrastructure program Whistler will have to go back to a more economical expansion and upgrade of its plant. In 1993 Whistler received approval from the Ministry of Environment for a $21 million expansion of its wastewater treatment plant. When the infrastructure program was announced in 1994 municipalities were encouraged to submit plans for everything on their wish lists, which led to Whistler asking for funding for a $30 million expansion and upgrade, including conversion to biological phosphorus removal, the addition of an advanced wastewater treatment system and extending the sewer system to Emerald and the west side of Alta Lake. The expansion and upgrade would have been completed in three years. Late last week the municipality received confirmation of what it had known for several months, that all the infrastructure money had been allocated and there was none for Whistler. So the municipality is going back to its 1993, $21 million expansion plans. That means for the time being Emerald Estates will continue to be excluded from the municipal sewer system. It also means Whistler will have to negotiate with the Ministry of Environment for a revised operational certificate. Hunter told council there could be "considerable opposition" to the municipality's revised plans, largely because it will mean a significant increase in orthophosphate discharge. But she added: "We feel we've developed a program that puts us in a good negotiating position." The municipality has $10 million earmarked for the first phase of the plant's expansion, the $220,000 emergency improvements and a $120,000 study of the Cheakamus River. The money is held over from a previous provincial revenue sharing program. Additional funds for subsequent phases of the expansion may be available in 1996, when the province will resume its revenue sharing program. The river study will attempt to determine once and for all Whistler's responsibility for the high phosphorus levels in the Cheakamus River. Various studies and reports on studies over the years have produced conflicting results. Mayor Ted Nebbeling opposed spending money on another study. "Three months ago the Ministry of Environment stood up and said we had the best sewage treatment plant in the province," Nebbeling said. "What happens after we spend $120,000? Because somebody will disagree with it." But Director of Public Works John Nelson said there has really only been one study, and subsequent reports have studied the study or filled in gaps in the data of the first study. "We're guilty until we prove ourselves innocent," Councillor Hugh O'Reilly summed up. Nebbeling, in noting that Emerald will again be left off the municipal sewer system, suggested some alternative treatments be examined that utilize the marsh area in the Soo Valley as a natural filter.

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