Travelers come from miles around to lounge on Harrison’s sandy shores, marvel at the rugged, west coast views and soak in the healing waters of the hot springs.
But on Friday morning, a sizable crowd gathered for a close-up look at a local amenity that’s not in any travel magazine — the waste water treatment plant.
While that doesn’t really sound like a crowd pleaser, it turns out that Harrison’s waste water is the envy of the western hemisphere.
Tucked away about a mile down the south shoreline, mostly out of sight from the main beach, the plant is constantly chugging away, cleaning the waste water to near perfection before sending it back out into the watershed.
And it’s doing a stellar job, said numerous engineers who toured the plant Friday morning. While the treatment plant has been at that site for decades, and the upgrade was completed this March, Friday was the official red ribbon cutting. The event drew out local politicians, MP Mark Strahl and Chilliwack MLA John Les, along with the engineers and designers involved in the $4 million upgrade project.
The informative tour, led by Mark Yasinski, water and waste water lead hand for the Village, offered the public an inside look at the new system.
It uses simple yet innovative hollow membrane fibers and UV treatment to remove contaminants from the waste water, before sending it back out into the Harrison River. The average person uses 450 litres of water a day. And while many municipalities only practice primary and possibly a secondary filtration of their populations’ waste water, Harrison is cleaning its waste water almost entirely.
About 99 per cent of the water flushed down the toilet ends up back in pristine condition and pumped into the Harrison River, where it flows into the Fraser River basin. After the largest particles and debris are removed from the waste water, it is sent through the 128 hollow membrane filters housed at the plant. Only clean water particles are able to pass through those membranes, leaving bacteria and solids to fall.
Technically, it’s called a tertiary “polishing step” called a Membrane Bio-Reactor. But to those who toured the plant on Friday, words like “fascinating”, “amazing” and “unbelievable” were better descriptors.
“This is scaled back in size, but not in technology,” said MLA John Les. Because of Harrison’s smaller population — and ability to build a smaller capacity model — the cost is vastly smaller than a big city could ever dream to afford, he said.
“They’re delivering almost pristine water back into the environment,” he said, “and that’s something that the community should be proud of. They’ve really raised the bar in what you can accomplish.”
The system is the envy of municipalities across North America, he said. The Association of Professional Engineers and Scientists highlighted the project in their summer publication, citing its innovation.
“This approach greatly increases the sustainability of the treatment plant due to the decreased complexity, costs, footprint and materials,” they wrote. “This technology has made this plant a model of sustainable sewage treatment that ensures the continued natural beauty of this community.”
The project was completed through the Village, with Keystone Environmental as prime consultant and Timbro Contracting as prime contractor. Mechanical design was completed by Ne-Westech Engineering.
At the recent Communities in Bloom national awards conference, the Village earned a Sustainability Award for the project, as well.
And all in all, the new system is working well.
“We’re getting excellent results,” said Andres Murillo, project manager with Timbro.
Murillo factored in potential growth in Harrison until 2022, at an estimate of about 5,000 residents. While he noted that that sort of growth isn’t likely, the plant would be able to handle an increase if needed.
In addition to the hollow membrane filters, the waste water also passes through a UV filtration system.
“It’s amazing the type of clean-up we can get with the membrane and the UV light,” Murillo said. The other end product is the solid waste, which is extracted, collected and shipped off for composting.
This isn’t the first upgrade the plant has seen. In 1982, the capacity was doubled and in 2002 a grit removal system was installed. The tank was starting to show signs of deteriorating, and it was approaching maximum capacity.
There were challenges in upgrading the system this time, ranging from space constraints to keeping the entire system operational at all times.
They also had to keep the budget under control. The cost was shared by the federal, provincial and municipal governments.
“The budget was tight and we couldn’t go over it,” Murillo said.
Much of the budget came from Municipal Rural Infrastructure Funds ($2.7 million). Another $88,365 was received from the Regionally Strategic Priorities Fund.
“This is a major project for this community,” said Mayor Leo Facio. “We are very fortunate to have this infrastructure.”