Penticton sewer plant plant in need of repairs

Full upgrade expected to cost $1.9-million that will come from the utility's reserves

Problems with aging equipment at Penticton’s wastewater treatment plant have forced the city to move up parts of a five-year replacement plan.

City engineer Ian Chapman said problems with a fermenter and a blower in the bioreactor have forced the sewer utility to rethink its 2013 capital budget, which included a limited amount of funds for a short-term repair, allowing the fermenter to stay in operation for four to six more years.

But when the utility put the repair job out to tender, city staff discovered the fix would cost more than double what they had planned for. Rather than pay out a high price for a short-term fix, Chapman said they decided to move up a planned full rebuild of the unit from 2019 to 2014.

“It will either be a new structure altogether or a refurbishment of an existing tank,” said Chapman. The cost of the full upgrade is estimated to be $1,925,000, which will be drawn from the sewer utility’s accumulated reserves. For 2013, Chapman asked council to reallocate $200,000 for the pre-design and detailed design for the fermenter.

“The sewer utility fund is certainly one of our healthier utility funds,” said chief financial officer Doug Leahy. According to Chapman’s report, the 2012 accumulated surplus is $7,396,000, which is to be utilized for future upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant.

“The equipment we are looking at replacing now was not part of the recent upgrade. It was left over and we knew we would have to get to it and the time is now,” said Chapman.

The recent upgrade addressed about 75 per cent of all the plant’s infrastructure but funds weren’t available to do all the big ticket items at the time, though they knew that elements like the fermenter and clarifier would be coming up in the next several years.

“It just happens that the state of the fermenter is such that we just can’t wait. Based on the tender we received earlier, there isn’t a quick temporary fix,” said Chapman. “We need to spend the money now.”

In addition to problems with the fermenter, the bearings failed on one of the blowers in the bioreactor earlier this year. But while studying the costs to repair it, Chapman said they also took a look at the efficiency of the existing units.

“We discovered that the existing blowers, even in repaired state, are relatively inefficient, in fact they are very inefficient,” said Chapman. “We could purchase a new blower and based on the projected energy savings, we would have a payback of five years.”

A new blower will cost $170,000, adding up a total of $370,000 in changes to the sewer utility’s 2013 budget. Summing up council’s position on the changes Coun. John Vassilaki said that not only was it reasonable, but the city had little choice.

“It has to be done before we have sewage coming up our bathtubs,” said Vassilaki.