The smell of spring is in the air, but for some residents, that smell isn’t so appealing. The Martensville lagoon, located in the south end of the city is once again causing concern to residents within the community in regards to the potent smell emitting from within.
This issue has been ongoing for numerous years, and although it may seem as though nothing has been taking place to combat the stench, steps have been taken regularly in order to minimize the smell. Each year there is a new hurdle to work through and this year is no different. Matt Gruza, the City of Martensville Engineer Assistant, explained that this past winter caused some issues, as there were cold temperatures; however not a lot of snow. This lack of snow caused there to be less insulation for the ground, and the cold temperatures drove frost deep within. Numerous water supply lines within the City saw the effects of this and as of May 25th, the lagoon effluent line was still frozen. “This is the line that discharges treated wastewater from the lagoon into the river, and that discharge helps with some of the smell as it moves some of the material through the lagoon system for further treatment,” Gruza explained. The City has a permit to open the effluent line as of May 1st each year; but due to the frozen lines, they are now weeks behind with the discharge process.
The Martensville lagoon has seven cells within its system, and the waste comes in at cell 1 and moves to cell 2 – these are the primary treatment cells. The solids are removed in these two cells and from there the water is treated and clarified within cells 3 to 7. Several years ago, the City performed testing on the water and found that the treated water was cleaner than water found in the ditches. “By the time it goes through the lagoon system, it does get cleaned up. Unfortunately, where there is a lot of material in there and temperature conditions come into play, the smell can be amplified,” added Gruza. The City has been working with the designers of the lagoon and their engineers, adding chemicals and treatment enzymes, monitoring it daily and testing regularly in an attempt to minimize the impact to residents. Additionally, there is constant aeration taking place in order to keep things moving within the lagoon. “There are a number of factors and it is a difficult process to predict. Each year we try to get ahead of it as much as we can, to anticipate and pre-treat, but there is only so much we can do. We try our best to make it as minimal as possible and we are very sensitive to that issue and understand that this is a concern for residents so we are actively working to solve it,” Gruza said.
Throughout the years, there have been several upgrades made to the lagoon in an effort to work efficiently as the population of the community continues to grow. “People may see that the lagoon has been an issue for years, but what they maybe don’t see is that we have dealt with one issue, then another and so on. We fix a small thing and it may buy us a year or two. Then we reach capacity and had to upgrade other things. What we want to do now is to plan for a more long term sustainable solution to these issues,” Gruza noted.
The City has a plan in place for a more permanent solution, which would be to work with Saskatoon and utilize their waste water facilities. This would be a large project, but would allow for Martensville to sustain growth that the lagoon is unable to accommodate.
In order to fund this project, the City of Martensville applied for a Government grant several years ago, and has been working collaboratively with the province and federal government to make the grant happen. “In the end it is their decision, so we are waiting on their official answer,” Mayor Kent Muench explained. While waiting for a final verdict from the government, the City is in a challenging position, “The way that the grant works, and most grants, is that if you complete a portion of the project now, then that funding cannot be added later. So if we spent a million dollars right now, we wouldn’t get the third from the provincial government and the third from the federal government. We could potentially do some of the upgrading to our lagoon now, but it could be at a significant cost because we could potentially lose up to 66% of the money we spend. That is money that could be going towards projects in the community such as a new rink,” Muench added. The total grant, if approved, would be for over $20 million, which the City would be required to pay a third of.
The project, which would be a joint wastewater project with the City of Saskatoon, would be a cost effective – long term solution versus anything that could be done with the current lagoon. “Anything we do now would be short term and would not be a final solution, so it is really not good use of taxpayer money,” said Muench noting that the current lagoon, which was created when Martensville was far smaller, has served its life. “Saskatoon has a world class facility that has capacity, so to build another wastewater facility just up the river from where there is one, doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.” Martensville is currently working on a regional partnership – Saskatoon North Partnership for Growth (P4G) between Saskatoon, Warman, Osler and the Rural Municipality of Corman Park, and projects such as this one are the goal of these collaborations.
Without a plan for the future in place, the limitation of the current lagoon could directly impact Martensville’s future for potential growth. “If we can’t expand our lagoon, we won’t be able to build new neighborhoods because we are at capacity. This plan is really in place for the future and it does provide an economic spin-off, as well as help with the odor. New businesses, new houses, and more jobs – this is all really important stuff that is riding on all of this. It is more than just an odor issue. No one likes the smell and everyone wants it to go away including council and City staff, so we need a plan and we are doing our best to make it happen,” Muench stated.
According to Nancy Heppner, the MLA for Martensville and Warman, the provincial government recommended Martensville’s project to the federal government for approval. “The project combines the lagoon expansion, wastewater, as well as a potable water line from Saskatoon. The cities of Martensville and Saskatoon have been working together on an agreement for supplying water directly to Martensville as Martensville is currently serviced by SaskWater. SaskWater identified that the prospect of Martensville no longer being part of the SaskWater system would affect its current business model for the area,” Heppner said in a statement provided to the Martensville Messenger. Heppner continued to explain that there have been numerous meetings held with SaskWater, herself, representatives from Martensville, Saskatoon and other municipalities. “All affected parties are working toward a transition plan to be completed by the end of June so that this project can go ahead in its entirety. I understand conversations with SaskWater are progressing and I hope that an agreement can be reached soon in order to get this project built as it is a necessary piece of infrastructure to continue supporting growth in Martensville.”
What Can Residents Do To Help?
To help decrease the stress on the lagoon system and increase its efficiency, residents are asked to be mindful of what they are flushing down their toilets or putting in their drains. Gruza explains, “a challenge that many communities face with wastewater treatment is the addition of products which are marketed as ‘flushable’, but which actually cause a lot of problems within a wastewater treatment facility. These include items such as ‘flushable’ wipes, feminine hygiene products, and diapers. Even though these products may be labelled as flushable, there are currently no regulations specifying which products can be labelled this way. Cities around the world are working to develop standards to more accurately label which products truly can be flushed.”
“It’s amazing the things that we find in the sewer system. The most recent unusual find was a whole bathrobe which was plugging some equipment at a sewer pumping station.”