A partnership between North Algona Wilberforce and Algonquin College on the Sno-Drifters site could sour education and the exploration of a new way of dealing with septic waste. 

“The college wants to put together a curriculum and program to incorporate the site in the practical component of the curriculum,” NAW Mayor James Brose explained. “We would have to sign a contract with the college but before that staff will bring back more information to council.”

The plan centres around the Rotating Biological Contactor (RBC) which is owned by Algonquin College and already in storage at the township waiting for a prime location for use, testing and education. 

Former NAW CAO Andrew Sprunt and Algonquin College Professor Patrick Nicholson, who teaches in the Environment Technician and Environmental Management and Assessment Program, were at council last week introducing the idea of the partnership. During the presentation they explained the RBC “is a biological fixed-film wastewater treatment process.”

It allows wastewater to come in contact with a biological film in order to remove pollutants before the effluent is discharged into the environment. 

“It is a component of a wastewater treatment system,” the presentation explained. “There is pre-treatment and post-treatment of the wastewater in a system that includes an RBC.”

What is being considered at the Sno-Drifter site is the complete system that includes pre-treatment of influent — the wastewater entering the plant – and effluent – the treated wastewater leaving the plant.

The proposed project would use an RBC which was donated to the college by Blue Metric, a prominent wastewater treatment company in Canada. 

“The plan was to create a working RBC system that would both provide a wastewater treatment facility for neighbouring properties or development and provide a learning facility for Algonquin College students,” the report stated. 

However, since the RBC was donated, the COVID-19 pandemic got in the way of getting the project ongoing. Now, with the township assuming ownership of the Sno-Drifters site and the COVID pandemic impact lessened, there is the possibility to look at the project, the presenters noted. 

“After a review of the RBC’s abilities, the collection area, the education component and the financial implications, a phase approach is believed the best course of action to have the unit up and running in the shortest time frame and with minimal cost,” the report concluded. 

A four-phase plan has been devised for a progressive evolution of the site “with immediate benefit and minimal capital investment in the first phase,” the report continued. 

The next three phases will take the plant from a working model to an operating municipal treatment system to redundancy, allowing the unit to be moved to another location. 

The college was able to find grant funding for applied research which will cover the facility and an Algonquin co-op position to assist with the RBC system planning, installation, monitoring and the development of the curriculum.

Phase I is a closed loop working model. Phase 2 is a working system with some off-site influent. Phase 3 is a working system and low-pressure collection network and Phase 4 is a connection to an external collection system. Each phase was explained in the presentation. 

For Phase 1, influent will come from the existing septic system at the Sno-Drifters and the effluent will be returned to the same. There will be no discharge into the environment. 

For Phase 2, septic truck discharge could be received “from select neighbouring properties that have weeping bed issues.” 

Phase 3 is more expensive and would entail the construction of a lower pressure sewer system for collection from residential and commercial units. It will come with a substantial cost and require formal licensing and approvals. 

Each phase is independent and does not require progression to the next phase. However, each phase helps build a business case for the next phase. 

Ongoing Discussions

Mayor Brose told the Leader the township has the RBC because Algonquin College needed a location for it and this was part of the ongoing discussions with the college. The formalization of the acquisition of the Sno-Drifters property in March has opened up the possibilities of this and other partnerships, he said. 

“We were able to go back to the college and say we have a site to set it up,” he said. 

Since the college has the grant to hire a student to find the location and do the connections and monitoring, it is an ideal situation, he said. 

The location on the site which is being looked at is between the clubhouse building and the Foodland property, Mayor Brose said. 

“Once they create the program it can create interest for the environmental technician program development,” he said. 

This would be a learning site, Mayor Brose said, which could also expand to include students from the Ottawa campus of Algonquin college as well as Pembroke. 

Council will review the information garnered from staff before making a final decision on the partnership. 

The Eganville Sno-Drifters’ Snowmobile Club established a clubhouse and half-mile oval race track at this location almost 50 years ago. While the club’s membership has declined in recent years, the popular snowmobile races will continue through an agreement with the township.

By Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 25, 2023 at 15:05

This item reprinted with permission from   The Eganville Leader   Eganville, Ontario
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