Ucluelet is set to start treating its sewage again this week.
The community has been pumping raw sewage into the ocean since Jan. 6 while work on its sewage lagoons was underway.
One of the lagoon’s four cells sprung a leak last summer and its repair led to an overall upgrade of the facility, which ran up a $1.4 million bill.
“They were unlined cells that were put up there and the original work was done in 1985 so with that and with the leakage that was happening this is why we proceeded with the work,” Ucluelet's Manager of public Works Warren Cannon told the Westerly News.
“The completion of the liner portion of the project is to be completed by the end of this week. Therefore, we'll be able to discontinue the direct discharging...Our sewage will be going back into our wastewater treatment system.”
He added testing was done during the roughly three-month-stretch of raw sewage discharge and the results suggest the temporary measure caused little harm to the surrounding environment.
“Throughout the entire process we have done testing out in the open ocean and of the results they've all been submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Environment Canada and we show no impact,” he said.
While the untreated sewage flow is set to stop in short order, the facility's overall upgrade won't be complete until the end of April as wet weather caused delays on aeration and baffle installation, according to Cannon.
“Weather affects the work as each cell is having a liner installed and, in order to do that work, it has to be relatively dry,” he said. “It can still be done in the wet weather but it just prolongs the work.”
The $1.4 million weight was lifted off Ucluelet’s municipal shoulders this month as the district was relieved to hear it would not need to borrow the funds to pay for the work.
Mayor Dianne St. Jacques told the Westerly News she was thrilled to hear the provincial and federal governments had agreed to take on a lion’s share of the bill, leaving Ucluelet with a much more manageable $238,000, 17 per cent, to come up with.
“This is huge, amazing news for us,” she said. “This was an unexpected repair and, obviously, we don’t have $1.4 million sitting around.”
She added that if higher government’s hadn’t swooped in to assist, the district would have been looking at a significant loan as delaying the work until funds were available was not an option.
“We didn’t have a choice...It was leaking out into Spring Cove so repairs had to happen and they had to happen quickly. The total cost came in, as it always does, quite a bit more than anticipated. It was $1.4 million that we applied for and we were successful,” she said.
“It was a great application that we put in with great reasoning behind it. Part of being a resort municipality is we have a tax base of 1,600, but we have hundreds of thousands of visitors so we need some help with these kinds of things financially.”
She said the recent upgrade would ensure another 25-30 years of usage.
“We’ve been doing things right all this time, as far as our sewer treatment goes, and now we’ve gotten another 30 years or more by doing these repairs,” she said. “This is a big one and we’re very happy.”