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  • Jim Mosher

‘Modern’ Winnipeg Beach lagoon system struggles for passing grade


Aeration of the primary cell is a key component of the overall sewage treatment. Air is pumped into the lagoon pond from the main building, top left.

— File Jim Mosher 2016


WINNIPEG BEACH — Touted as a new and innovative system for medium-size lagoon systems, the $3.4-million sewage management system at the town’s lagoon has yet to pass muster — and that more than two years after it was to be fully operational.


Town council has yet to release a final payment to the Winnipeg firm that designed the lagoon’s sewage management system, which includes many automated, computer-based components. Critical systems have had to be adjusted and frequently monitored by utilities manager Raven Sharma Shariot.


There have been additions of a variety of chemicals — such as alum and a polymer to bind to phosphorus and other nutrients — and adjustments to input rates. But more refinements are required before final payments will be made.


Officials from the Manitoba Water Services Board, which cost-shared the project with the town, have been monitoring the situation. The town, water services and the contractor are working to iron out the problems.


The goal behind the lagoon upgrade was to increase capacity for future residential growth. The upgraded lagoon was to have been capable of continuous discharge — in the past discharges could only be conducted twice a year.


However that capacity-building is sputtering because of persistent glitches with the new system.


Council recently rejected a request from Sandy Hook RV Resort in Gimli that the town receive its pumper-truck delivered sewage. The town currently takes in sewage from Wildwood Trailer Park. But the consensus is that until the problems at the lagoon can be adequately addressed, no more of its limited capacity should be used.


“We don’t really want any more pressure on the lagoon,” public works chairwoman Pat Green said during a regular meeting May 8.


The decision may be influenced by the town now having to accommodate sewage from the provincial campground near the watertower.


O&M COSTS CONTINUE TO RISE



The lagoon building houses a variety of pumps for the aeration system, the timed infusion of nutrient-binding chemicals, pre-discharge ozonation systems and sophisticated on-site monitoring systems that can remotely warn utilities manager of system operational problems.

— File Jim Mosher 2016


Operational and maintenance costs associated with the town lagoon system continue to increase. In addition, the town has committed to spending $150,000 this year to construct a building at the lagoon.


The proposed building will house a laboratory testing area, storage, a washroom and the utility manager’s office. Sharma Shariot has been conducting a variety of required tests in the existing building, in which space is at a premium.


To help defray costs the town last year won approval to increase its annual levy of property taxpayers in Local Improvement District 3 — an area that uses the town’s low-pressure sewer system via on-site holding tanks.


The Public Utilities Board ordered last year that the annual levy for maintenance and operations of the lagoon system would rise from the 2017 rate of $36.68 to $89.35 in 2018, then two per cent each year from 2019-2021. PUB’s order was dated March 26, 2018. Town council immediately passed a new bylaw incorporating both new sewer and water rates approved by PUB on an ex parte basis.


LID 3 ratepayers will pay $91.13 this year, $92.96 in 2020 and $94.82 in 2021.


Council has, since at least last fall, been batting around the concept of having a building at the lagoon for both utilities manager Sharma Shariot and whatever extra equipment may be necessary.


“It was never meant to be that kind of work environment,” public works chairwoman Green said during a regular council meeting Jan. 23, said of the existing building at the town lagoon. “It’s one of those things we’re going to have to look at. The [existing] building wasn’t designed as a workspace. It was designed for the equipment in it.”


Green says Sharma Shariot, who as a university degree in environmental science, conducts some tests that would otherwise have to be sent to out-of-town laboratories.


Wages and benefits for the utilities manager are expensed under the merged sewer and water utility. Wages and benefits listed in the current-year utility budget are on the sewer side $58,250 and $20,400 for management of the water half of the utility operating fund.


While most of the total $78,650 is attributable to wages and benefits for the utilities manager, five per cent of public works and administration wages that the municipality can be allocated against water and sewer, as per the PUB order last year.


It seems fair to conclude that operations, management and maintenance of the water-sewer utility represent a significant cost — and one that has increased significantly in just two years.


Council, senior government, the contractor and the utilities manager continue to work to ensure all the kinks are worked out sooner rather than later.



The existing lagoon building is cramped with equipment. UV radiation is used as a tertiary part of pre-discharge treatment: UV disinfecting device at right.

— File Jim Mosher 2016