Vernon to dump treated sewage into Okanagan Lake

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The City of Vernon plans to discharge treated wastewater into Okanagan Lake starting next month. Jules Knox reports. – Jan 21, 2020

The City of Vernon will be discharging treated wastewater into Okanagan Lake.

The city’s reclaimed water is usually piped into the MacKay Reservoir and then used for irrigating local golf courses, soccer fields and agricultural land.

However, the city said the reservoir is nearly full so it’s going to redirect the flow of the water into Okanagan Lake via a deep lake outfall.

The outfall is seven kilometres southwest of Kin Beach, approximately two kilometres from either shore and 60 metres below the water’s surface, city spokesperson Christy Poirier said.

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Climate change is considered the biggest factor in the reservoir reaching its limits, according to wastewater treatment manager Serge Kozin.

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“The rains in 2017, cooler weather [and] smoke in the valley has decreased the air temperature and we cannot irrigate as much,” Kozin said. “Subsequently, the reservoir level keeps coming up slowly, year after year.”

City officials reiterated that it’s common for communities on Okanagan Lake to discharge reclaimed water, like Kelowna does.

But Mayor Victor Cummings also acknowledged that the community had concerns when reclaimed water was previously discharged in the lake in the 1990s.

“One of the most important things to know is that the treatment has been upgraded substantially since the late 1990s, and the quality of the water is much higher than it was then,” he said.

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In 2013, a qualified professional engineer rated the water leaving the Vernon Water Reclamation Centre as being some of the highest quality treated water in B.C., according to the city.

The reclamation centre receives approximately 12.3-million litres of influent every day, which is mostly domestic and commercial but also includes industrial wastewater, Poirier said.

City officials said the discharge will not affect lake users and believe it won’t cost taxpayers any extra money.

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“We actually will probably see a decrease in cost because of the high cost of electricity and pumping it to MacKay Reservoir,” Kozin said.

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The city said it plans to start discharging treated water into the lake in February but is still working with the environment ministry to determine how long it will last.

Officials are hosting 90-minute public tours of the Vernon Water Reclamation Centre on Saturday. However, space is limited, so anyone wishing to participate is asked to RSVP to by Friday at 3 p.m.

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