2002 Wastewater — Co-winner 1
Town of Roblin, Manitoba
Tertiary Wastewater Demonstration Project
As early as 1996, the Town of Roblin identified a need to manage excess effluent flow in its wastewater to alleviate overloading of irrigated lands with water and chemicals. The town constructed an engineered wetland to do the job, but went further than simple water treatment. Nutrients from the effluent are used for crop production, local waterfowl habitat has been developed, and a potential revenue source has been created from the sale of timber that is grown using treated effluent. The relatively low-cost, 40-acre wastewater treatment system has not only stopped the degradation of nearby irrigated land, but has created a new provincial standard with its zero-discharge capability.
At meetings held in 1997, residents and elected officials of the Town of Roblin began discussing the need to develop guiding principles and goals for the community. Owing to agricultural and environmental pressures on the town's existing wastewater treatment system, one of those goals was to find a solution for treating municipal and residential sewage.
The town uses a lagoon as its primary wastewater treatment system. Towns that use such systems often discharge the effluent into local streams or rivers during times of high water flow. This option was not available to Roblin. "We had been told that we couldn't discharge into the nearby Shell River because there was strong pressure put on the provincial ministry of the environment from a local lobby group," said Mayor Lorne Boguski.
In 1981, therefore, a 10-year agreement was reached with a local landowner who agreed to take all the lagoon's excess effluent to irrigate his hay crop. But when the agreement expired in 1991, the landowner would accept only some of the effluent at certain times of year. Under that scenario, the town would still have been faced with disposing of excess effluent during times of high rain and heavy snowfall.
Instead, the town purchased a section of land next to the landowner's. Then, with the assistance of the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) of the Government of Canada and the Province of Manitoba's Water Services Board, the town installed an irrigation system to carry the excess effluent to an alfalfa crop planted on the new land. The alfalfa crop now absorbed all the excess effluent.
The problem appeared to be solved, but around 1996, after several years of record rainfall in Manitoba, the amount of effluent doubled. For example, in the summer of 1993, rainfall for the province was double the annual average of 231 mm. The irrigation system was unequipped to deal with such an excess of effluent, and the land soon became overloaded with water and salt nutrients. "We drowned out the crop," said Mayor Boguski. "It had come to the point where we either had to buy more land and set up another irrigation system, or find an alternate method." The Province of Manitoba objected to Roblin's initial plan to buy more land for irrigation, and instead suggested that a wetland might be the solution.
- The wetland has created and restored habitat conservation in the area, particularly for local water bird species.
- Opportunities have opened up to enrich the high school science curriculum.
- The irrigated land has been protected from water and chemical overloading.
- The decision-making process needs to be open and transparent to enhance the co-operation and understanding of all the stakeholders. During the entire process, the town consulted citizens, gained an understanding of their views and involved them in ongoing evaluations.
- Technical support from TetrES was key, since expertise was not available in-house. The project also highlighted the need for a stronger relationship between the town's public works department, council, the Manitoba Water Services Board and PFRA. As an example, the town is a participant in the Partnership Agreement for Municipal Water Infrastructure (PAMWI) that provides cost-sharing of capital works to improve municipal water supplies. PAMWI covered a portion of the costs of the town's wetland construction project.
- TetrES Consultants
- Ducks Unlimited
- Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (Government of Canada)
- Province of Manitoba Water Services Board
- Save the Shell River Group
- Roblin Goose Lake High School