The District of Houston’s new bulk waste disposal facility, built last year at a cost of more than $500,000, is delivering an unintended consequence to neighbouring businesses.
Each time a large sewage-carrying tanker pumps out its contents, a smell permeates the area surround the facility, causing people to retreat inside, close their windows and hold their noses.
“Of course, we all know what it smells like,” said Henry Fennema of Nadina Truck Service, one of the affected businesses near the Nadina Ave. location of the bulk waste facility in the industrial area.
The tankers come from Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline construction work camps south of the community, part of a string of such facilities placed along the 670 kilometre pipeline route connecting the gas fields of northeastern B.C. with LNG Canada’s gas liquefaction facility now under construction at Kitimat.
Being temporary, the camps don’t have their own waste disposal systems, leading work camp provider Civeo to approach the District of Houston with a proposition several years ago — the one waste handling facility the District did have simply wasn’t large enough to handle the outflow of hundreds of workers so Civeo proposed a deal whereby it would pay for the majority of a larger replacement facility.
Its subsidy amounted to $311,628.75 with the District adding in $177,000 of its own money for a budgeted value of $538,335 for the new facility located at the District’s property on Nadina. Civeo would also pay a user fee.
Although the project was not within the District’s strategic plan, the prospect of providing a service to large-scale users prompted council to undertake the work as one way to add to the District’s overall ability to attract more business and boost economic development.
But now with large tanker trucks regularly pumping out effluent at the site, the resulting smell is causing a problem.
“It’s very unpleasant,” said Fennema of the ongoing situation. “It just doesn’t smell that nice.”
“But what can you do about it,” he continued, adding that the situation, so far, is temporary for the next several years until the Coastal GasLink pipeline is finished.
He has yet to contact the District of Houston about the smell and neither has another nearby business owner, Bill Woelders of Traction Tire.
Woelders echoed Fennema’s comments, saying his employees close their windows when pumping is taking place.
He’s isn’t convinced the situation is temporary, saying there could be other large scale industrial activity in the years ahead needing a facility large enough to serve the needs of a work camp or other accommodation facility.
“I think there could have been a better plan,” said Woelders.
He wonders if the the facility might have been built further back in the industrial area but says even then, businesses in that area would be affected.
For now, Woelders said the best thing that can happen is a light wind to take away the smell.
One District of Houston councillor, Troy Reitsma, is aware of the smell and of a separate issue — whether an increased amount of sewage, over and above when Civeo is now delivering to the facility, could overcome the District’s lagoon capacity.
“I have no problem what is going on now,” he said of the current loads from Civeo, adding that the company did contribute to the new facility and has a user fee in place. “Our lagoons can handle that, but what if we get more?”
He brought the issue up at a recent District of Houston council meeting and District staffers are now preparing a report for council.
Should Houston’s lagoons ever be at over capacity based on large scale industrial use, the issue then is dredging, a cost item Reitsma said would fall upon the District and its taxpayers.
As for the smell, Reitsma said it could very well be the volume being pumped out at any one time, a quantity that would then cause the system to back up, at least temporarily, until the flow settled into a holding tank prior to entering the lagoons.
“Last year, when it was being pumped in directly, it would back up the lines even to the store and we would have that smell,” he said of his own business location.
“We thought at first it might have something to do with the work outside of our store,” he added of civic works last year connected with the downtown revitalization project.