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Whistler, Pemberton receive funds for sewer upgrades

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Odour at Function Junction should be a thing of the past

The musty smells wafting over Function Junction may soon be a thing of the past with a new $13 million funding grant to upgrade Whistler’s Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The funding was announced last week in Vancouver as part of the Canada-British Columbia Infrastructure Program. At the same time, a $3.9 million grant was given to the Village of Pemberton for a new sewage treatment facility.

The provincial and federal government funding will account for two-thirds of the cost of each project, with the balance coming from the municipality and the village respectively.

The money will go toward two very different projects. Pemberton will be building a brand-new plant near the airport, which will increase the village’s sewage capacity. Whistler on the other hand will be making upgrades to the existing system, focusing on cleaning the wastewater.

"This is a project to focus on protecting the environment," said Brian Barnett, general manager of engineering and public works at the municipality.

"What remains is to remove the solid particles from the effluent and so that’s the bulk of the work that’s getting done with this next upgrade," he said.

Barnett said he hopes the upgrades to the water will ease concerns from Squamish residents about Whistler water being pumped south down the Cheakamus River near their community.

About 25 per cent of the money for the upgrades will go into equipment for odour control.

"It’s a filter system where there’s little bugs, bacteria that actually eat the contaminants that cause the odours," said Barnett.

"It’s an organic process."

The funding is the culmination of a 10-year-old study which called for a $30 million upgrade to the Function Junction facility, rather than building another plant in Whistler.

In 1996 the municipality received a $10 million grant for upgrades which generally focused on capacity and pumping the volume of effluent through the plant.

These latest upgrades will focus on cleaning.

The B.C. Waste Water Association has already recognized Whistler’s treatment plant as one of the most technologically advanced in the province.

"We actually had an audit of the energy efficiency of the plant about three years ago and it’s incredibly efficient," said Barnett.

"We’re just absolutely thrilled with this (funding). We’re eager to proceed as soon as possible."

The upgrades should be in place within the next three years.

As part of the same program Pemberton also received a $3.9 million grant to build a new $5.8 million sewage treatment plant.

Mayor Elinor Warner breathed a sigh of relief when she heard the news.

"I think everyone in the community is relieved, whether you are a developer or one of the people who live down beside the present sewer treatment plant," she said.

Last year Pemberton council put a moratorium on development in the community until the sewer treatment plant was installed.

"Council hasn’t spoken about lifting the moratorium," said Warner.

"We haven’t talked about any of that yet. It’s still too new."

Like the Whistler upgrades, there has been no detailed design of the Pemberton plans to date. But according to preliminary discussions the mayor said the first phase would handle sewage treatment of 2,900 people, the second phase 6,000 people and have the potential to deal with up to 10,000 people.

If all the approvals go smoothly Warner said the plant could be up and running by September 2004.

"The day you turn the switch on there, the old sewage treatment plant will then be abolished," she said.

The funding money is part of a provincial/federal program, which will invest a total of $800 million in municipal infrastructure in urban and rural communities throughout the province.

At least 75 per cent of the program’s funding is being directed toward green projects – water and wastewater systems, water management and capital expenditures to retrofit or improve the energy efficiency of local buildings and facilities.

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