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Whistler refutes accusations about sewage



Problems plague other resort communities

The Resort Municipality of Whistler has vehemently denied accusations that it is looking to increase the amount of treated effluent discharged into the Cheakamus River.

"I want to be absolutely, perfectly clear that we are not increasing the volume of treated effluent," RMOW public works manager Brain Barnett told Pique Newsmagazine .

The accusation stems from a letter by a Squamish River Watershed Society member that was printed in these pages earlier this month.

The letter also accuses the "industrial tourism enterprise" of Whistler of not properly dealing with its effluent discharges by dumping it "out the back door."

Barnett categorically denied this as well.

"That’s not the case at all," he said in an interview.

The RMOW is, however, updating its current wastewater management plan, which was developed in 1993.

According to Barnett, the update will take a look at new management standards, practices and technologies for stormwater and biosolids management.

The plan will also take water conservation, universal water metering and upgrades to the sewage treatment plant’s odour control system into consideration.

An advisory committee has been formed and is comprised of various stakeholders throughout the corridor, including the Squamish River Watershed Society.

Barnett said Emerald Estates and houses on the west side of Alta Lake, which have been on septic systems, will be connected to the treatment plant via sewermains as part of the plan.

According to a RMOW press release, discharge volumes will remain the same: 16,000 cubic metres per day from May 15-Sept. 15 and 25,000 cubic metres per day for the remainder of the year.

"Normally, the flows are much less," said Barnett, noting that 11,000 cubic metres per day is the average.

Discharge volumes spike during busy periods, such as Christmas and New Year’s.

Barnett also said that Whistler and Blackcomb mountains and all of Intrawest’s real estate developments in the valley are connected to the municipal system, but could not provide individual flow figures.

"The whole development cap is based on consideration of wastewater discharge capacities," he said.

Whistler’s official community plan has a 52,500 bed-unit limit.

The first draft of the revised wastewater management plan should be ready for public viewing in late 2001, after a stakeholder review and public consultation process.

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

But other mountain resort communities have been plagued with sewage problems.

At the Intrawest-owned Panorama Mountain Village near Invermere, development plans that will affect the current sewage treatment process have irked local residents.

Panorama is planning to discharge treated effluent into Toby Creek, which flows out of the Purcell Mountains and into the Columbia River downstream of Invermere.

The resort currently uses a septic field to discharge treated effluent, but Intrawest has plans to develop real estate on that land which will help quadruple the number of bed units at the resort.

At Fernie Alpine Resort in B.C.’s Rocky Mountains, problems between the resort and the City of Fernie might lead, according to the local newspaper, to the cancellation of the upcoming ski season and a portable toilet outside every residence at the resort, which could drive down real estate values.

The resort had an agreement with the City of Fernie to process its overflow sewage, but has been experiencing financial problems and cannot pay for last year’s services.