By Andrea Arnold
In December of 2019, the Village of McBride began a contract with Horizon North Logistics Inc. agreeing to accept and process sewage transported from the Parsnip pipeline camp past Bear Lake. According to one of the drivers, there are usually four or five trucks making the 12-hour round trip daily, and that could increase with the projected growth of the camp. In an article written in December it was reported that 66 cubic metres of raw sewage was being deposited in the McBride lagoon daily. The contract has been bringing in between $15,000-$20,000 each month and the Village is excited about the extra income.
However, in the first few months of the agreement, residents along Bridge Road (the road used to access the dumping site on Fraser Lane) became concerned for several reasons. There was concern regarding the state of the road itself with the additional, heavy traffic. The trucks would arrive and often have to wait on the side, blocking driveways and most of one lane as the driver prepped for their drop. Another concern was the safety of children along the stretch.
But the biggest complaint was the smell. The trucks were backing a short way down Fraser Lane and using a man-hole to deposit into the system. When the hole cover is on, small amounts of methane is released through the holes, but it isn’t noticeable most of the time, one driver explained as the heavier, more odorous gasses settle below. The process of dumping causes a massive disturbance and these gases are forced out of the hole and scattered distributing a high level of odor throughout the area, he said. The position of the hole and the surrounding trees prevented the wind from helping dissipate particles quickly resulting in an unpleasant sensory overload.
The concern was voiced to Council by Rick Thompson in a tactful manner.
“I didn’t grasp the intensity of the problem from what was said,” said Mayor Gene Runtz. Early last week, Mayor Runtz received a phone call from Darvin Goodkey who was at Brad Harstad’s house. The house had been closed for some time and fumes had concentrated within the walls. At the time of the visit, there was a truck in the process of unloading. After only a few minutes, Goodkey had to leave the building and actually threw up from the stench. Harstad was on the phone with Goodkey as some of these events occurred. When Runtz arrived, he only needed to be in the house for a few moments to get the full effect.
“I realized the problem was bigger than we had thought,” said Runtz. He began knocking on doors in the area and talking directly to the residents. The comment that bothered him most was from Eva Westlund. “She said that she would be working outside and have to retreat inside because of the smell,” he said. “But then she added that the smell would linger in her nose for several hours.” In a separate interview, Westlund went on to say that it was to the point that she could even taste the smell.
Runtz stated that he didn’t want to be making money at the expense of residents’ health and comfort. A decision was made to temporarily relocate the dump site to the frontage road downhill from Rich Boyz shop. Business owner Joseph Rich is less than thrilled with the arrangement. “The smell was so bad we couldn’t go out of the shop when they were pumping,” he said. He said he had heard of new rules around dumping RV tanks, stating that there must be an airtight seal around the opening to prevent the backflow of gasses. He’d like to see something along the same lines implemented. He also expressed concern regarding the possibility of backflow into his shop. The volume going into the system could cause backup of either solid, liquid or gaseous variety. “The system wasn’t built with that amount of volume in mind,” he said. He was able to have a conversation with CAO McCutcheon to discuss his concerns.
The Village is now working on a way to allow the trucks direct access to the lagoon site as a long term solution. Until recently, Robson Valley Septic driver Daryl Roth had been driving his truck to the lagoon and using the manhole closer. The set up there allows the contents of the truck to enter below the concentrated gasses minimizing the disturbance. The truck driver driving from up north brought this up as well. He was surprised at the location of the original site and agreed that the idea of getting the trucks lower was a good solution.
If this is the solution chosen, work would need to be done on the road and a larger turn around space at the lagoon entrance built, sources say. Any ground altering changes would have to be done once the frost is out of the ground.
The money to finance the work would come from the funds generated by the contract itself, according to the Village. Once necessary work has been covered, the income generated from this and if possible, any other future arrangements, will go into an asset management reserve for Village Infrastructure replacement or improvements.
An official statement from the Village states: “The proposal for utilizing the lagoon for camp grey water and effluent was presented to Council late November with an extremely short response time. Council felt that it presented an opportunity to add additional revenue at a minimal cost to the Village and provide matching funds for grant applications, specifically for repair of a previously damaged lagoon cell. This revenue would mean that the Village would not have to increase taxes or fees by a significant amount to fund the repairs. We are aware of some concerns arising with this contract, Council and staff are addressing and mitigating issues as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
“We are hoping to arrange a time for public consultation to gather information and ideas regarding the concerns of the public and how to move forward. – end of statement.”
With the potential for more trucks, resulting in more income, Runtz believes that putting in the effort and money to find a solution that satisfies all is more than worth it.