Sewer System, Compost and Leachate Treatment tours
December 4th and January 15th

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Yes, this started in 2018, but it didn't get reported at the time.

In December a group of us toured the "sewerage system", starting here at the Courtenay Pump Station which is on the edge of the estuary not far from the 17th street bridge in the middle of Courtenay. Sewage ends up here from both sides of the river.

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New technology since I retired. They now have large touch screens for controlling and keeping track of all the equipment and sensors that tell them when all is well - and when it isn't. You can check on all locations from any site.

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Looking down on the tops of the pumps and the beginning of the force main that carries sewage from near the 17th street bridge all the way around the edge of the point to the treatment plant on the ocean on the far side of Comox.

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Near downtown Comox another pump station collects all of the sewage from Comox and adds it to the force main. In front of it is a compost "biofilter" that treats the air coming off the pump station to reduce odour in the area.

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We stopped at an empty lot that the Regional district purchased in 2016 to build another pump station needed to re-route the force main out of the ocean around the point. It caused a neighbourhood uproar and turned out to be a bad plan anyway, which is why our committee is now trying to come up with another route.

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We are on the beach at Goose Spit at the edge of Comox. In the distance is the Wilmar Bluffs. The force main runs along the shore between the high and low tide lines around this point to the treatment plant on the far side. Built in 1984, erosion is now starting to expose it. A break would be disastrous for the shellfish industry along the east side of Vancouver Island so a new route must be put in place SOON.

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Back at the treatment plant we got to see some things not available during the public open house - like these blowers that provide the air to the bioreactor.

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And some of the assorted pipes and pumps carrying liquids and solids to different parts of the plant for treatment.

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It was a cold foggy January morning when ten of us got to tour the facility at the Cumberland landfill where compost is made from the "biosolids" removed from the wastewater treatment plant on the far side of Comox.

The sludge is hauled in covered trucks to the composting site, where it is dumped into a large hopper. From there is conveyed to a mixing chamber where it is mixed with wood waste. At the minute a new mixing chamber is being built, so the old one is a short distance away, but still under cover because we get so much rain that the environment ministry will not allow any process to take place where the rain can fall on the biosolids and run off into the environment.

Here a loader is dumping biosolids into the mixer, which already contains wood chips.

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After mixing a conveyer moves the mixture to a spot where it can be picked up by loaders.

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This is what one mixer load looks like.

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The material is moved to LARGE covered chambers. This space will hold the product of one week and the composting site has five of these chambers. There are holes in the floor and hot air is blown up through the pile. Temperature and moisture content are measured constantly to be sure that the whole pile gets hot enough to kill off any pathogens present. After three weeks the compost is ready to be moved to an outdoor covered area. It is first screened to remove any pieces of wood waste more than about an inch in size. The "overs" go back into the process.

The screened compost is then "cured" and tested some more before being ready for sale as Class A Skyrocket Compost for use as a high-nitrogen soil amendment for landscaping, orchards, flower gardens and lawns.

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The air coming out of the enclosed composting building is forced through a "biofilter" - a compost bed - which removes the chemicals that cause odours.

Obviously one of those blowers is not in use at the minute!

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Next door to the composting site is a small wastewater treatment plant the treats the liquid leachate that is collected at the bottom of the new landfill cells where garbage is buried. These cells are fully lined so that no water from them can get into the water table.

The first thing that we saw inside the treatment building was this maze of pipes, pumps, and controllers that add chemicals and move the leachate around for treatment!

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There are four treatment tanks - this one is aerated and is completely covered to contain any odours and help to keep the water warm. Leachate is too cool for the bacteria removing the ammonia and nitrogen from it to be happy, so one of the first steps is to warm it. The boiler to do this is now fired using methane drawn from the older sections of the landfill, saving the CVRD about $5000 per month in propane.

The aerated tank changes ammonia to nitrates. Two un-aerated (anoxic) tanks change the nitrates to water and nitrogen which is already most of our atmosphere.

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This is the top of the fourth tank. It contains membrane filters. The water leaving the filters is almost clear. The solids retained - the bacterial sludge that gobbles up the ammonia and nitrates - goes back to the beginning to do its job again.

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Because bacteria grow quickly there is always excess to be removed. This centrifuge is used to take the water out of the sludge. The solids produced here - because they contain a lot of minerals and other toxic chemicals - are buried at the landfill, not used in the compost.

It is tiny compared to the centrifuges used at the waste water treatment plant.

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Our guide - Mike - explaining what some of the pumps and pipes are for.

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The jar on the left is what comes out of the bottom of the landfill. The jar on the right is the treated water. It is good enough quality that they pump it to the far side of the landfill where it is allowed to percolate back into the ground.

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