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Feds grant $3 million for overdue Smithers sewage plant upgrade

Town needs to upgrade facility or could face fines of up to $6 million
Smithers Fire Chief Derek Dickson, Councillor Calvin Elliott, Skeena Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach, Mayor Gladys Atrill, Director of Development Services Mark Allen, Director of Community Services Will George, Director of Works and Operations Chris Lawrence, and Councillor Sam Raven pose in front of the lagoons at the Smithers wastewater treatment plant. The plant will undergo necessary upgrades after the federal and provincial governments recently announced grants for the project.

Smithers has finally secured the grant money it needs to upgrade its wastewater treatment facility.

Ottawa announced last week it will be investing $3.05 million in the long overdue upgrades. The remaining financing is being met by $2.5 million from the provincial government and $2 million from the town.

In April 2020, Environment and Climate Change Canada issued the Town of Smithers a written warning for exceeding the authorized concentration of suspended solids in the effluent (25mg/L) and carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand concentrations (CBOD) of deleterious substances, also exceeding the 25mg/L allowable limit. In 2017 the average CBOD concentration for the Smithers WTP was 47.7mg/L.

If upgrades are not made the town could face fines of up to $6 million.

The town was denied federal and provincial grants in 2021.

“This is a really important project and I’m extremely pleased to see it finally come through after so much hard work,” said Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach in a press release. “The town’s wastewater infrastructure improvements will mean less impact on the Bulkley River, which is such a cherished feature of our valley, and will accommodate future growth of the community.”

Smithers Mayor Gladys Atrill also expressed her appreciation on behalf of the town in the same press release.

“On behalf of Council and the Town of Smithers, thank you to the federal and provincial governments for this important funding announcement,” she said.

“Congratulations to town staff for their great work on the application to the ICIP-EQ Program, and to the staff who have maintained a high quality of operations at our wastewater facility while we waited for this much-needed grant,” she said.

“At the town, we all want to do the best work possible and we recognized the need for improvements to the plant, though with a cost of nearly $8 million, it is simply too expensive for us to do alone.”

The project is currently in the design phase with the intention of work beginning in 2025.

Not only will the work reduce the effluents going into the river, but will also be easier to maintain.

“With the upgrades that we’re working on, it can include the population growth we’re looking at over 20 years,” added Director of Works and Operations Chris Lawrence.

The lagoons have not seen any upgrades since the early 1990s and the plant last saw an upgrade in 2010.

READ MORE: Smithers to start design phase of upgrades needed for waster water treatment facility

Marisca Bakker

About the Author: Marisca Bakker

Marisca was born and raised in Ontario and moved to Smithers almost ten years ago on a one-year contract.
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