The newly elected Village of Big Valley council heard that missing documents and missing reports related to the municipal lagoon are being addressed. The report was made at the March 18 regular meeting of council.

At a previous council meeting Village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Colleen Mayne reported that recent help from the County of Stettler revealed Big Valley had not submitted some important documentation related to the municipal lagoon.

“This information has been brought to the CAO’s attention by the County of Stettler following their agreeing to provide water and wastewater support under their water/wastewater certification,” stated Mayne’s report to council.

“In following what records could be found, an emergency release of the lagoon’s effluent pond was completed on July 23, 2022. Prior to that, however, the village had received a written warning dated Feb. 24, 2022 from the federal Environment and Climate Change branch stating that the village’s discharge exceeded the suspended solid limit and was identified as an alleged violation of 6(1)(b) of the Fisheries Act.

“In addition the village was found to have failed to test the average carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand (CBOD) for the calendar years of 2019 through to 2021, as well as failure to submit monitoring reports during that period in a timely manner, with one of those years being reported 293 days late.

“Other alleged contraventions identified were subsections 19(1) and 18(6), paragraphs 10(4)(a) and subparagraph 19(1)(b)(iv) of the Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations. 

The village was directed to undertake the necessary corrective action to ensure compliance with the Fisheries Act and exercise due diligence in the future. Further communication addressed to or from the federal government Environment and Climate Change branch in regard to this written warning has not been found.”

The CAO also notified councillors that the village received a Jan. 29, 2024 email from an Alberta Environment protection officer, “…in regard to a visible crack which had been observed during high water levels in June, 2022 on the village’s wastewater lagoon’s effluent pond and was reported to Environment.” 

The CAO stated a mandatory follow-up report was supposed to be sent to Alberta Environment, including repair details and other information, but “…it was not nor can any paperwork be found.”

Readers may be interested to know, according to online legal dictionary LawInsider.com, “’CBOD’ shall mean the quantity of oxygen utilized in the biochemical oxidation of organic matter (carbonaceous demand) and the oxygen used to oxidize inorganic material such as sulfides and ferrous iron,” and essentially provides a measure of the impact of wastewater on the oxygen content in a receiving water body.

Mayne continued by noting the village’s annual discharge in 2023 doesn’t appear to have been carried out.

She added that MPE Engineering, which was contracted by the Village of Big Valley to conduct an infrastructure study, has identified problems with the lagoon, including the aforementioned crack and issues with four cells at the entrance of the lagoon. 

“No corrective actions were done and the issues still exist and continue to worsen; repairs are required prior to the system’s failure,” stated the CAO’s memo.

Mayne reported that the Village of Big Valley met with the County of Stettler in February and, “…the county has agreed to continue assisting the village for the time being.” 

The CAO’s recommendation was to await MPE Engineering’s completed infrastructure study which should include the lagoon’s exact condition and what’s needed to repair it; she also recommended meeting with the County of Stettler to update them on all lagoon developments.

Councillors discussed Mayne’s report. The CAO noted the village’s new Public Works Foreman Monty DeMarco has contacted the federal government about the Fisheries Act issues and is attempting to catch up on all missing reports.

Councillors accepted the CAO’s report on lagoon contraventions for information.

Big Valley council gets lagoon update from engineers: ‘Very poor’

The Village of Big Valley’s newly elected council got a face-to-face meeting with engineers who’ve been giving the municipality a top-to-bottom inspection lately. The engineer’s report was given at the March 18 regular meeting of council.

Three representatives of MPE Engineering appeared before council, including Chris George, Taylor Sunderman and Trevor Curtis, to give an update on the infrastructure study the company is currently conducting for the village and which began in 2023. 

Usually such a study examines all of the utilities, roads and buildings owned by a municipality and gives an opinion on their condition, including any repairs needed; this was an update on work and not a completed study.

The engineers noted they were also looking at some data gaps connected to the municipal lagoon; it was revealed at a previous council meeting a lagoon release done by the Village of Big Valley apparently didn’t have proper reporting to upper levels of government submitted afterwards.

The engineers reported the lagoon was inspected and they found a crack in the berm of one storage cell, plus some non-functional valves. Engineers looked for seepage, but they pointed out several times in the meeting examining the lagoon was tricky because it’s full and it’s wintertime; apparently the crack is underwater and not visible. The lagoon also has dense vegetation built up.

Engineers also reported an inspection of the transfer structure where they found some lids that wouldn’t open and found external above-ground active seepage, which was discovered in January 2024.

Coun. Dan Houle noted parts of Big Valley are known for artisan wells.

MPE’s update which was displayed on-screen for councillors stated the lagoon is not in tip-top shape. 

“The condition of the lagoon is considered very poor,” stated the presentation, “…and is at risk of progressing.”

The engineers provided some recommendations for the time being, including lagoon inspections to be conducted three times a week, the preparation of an emergency response plan and beginning a conceptual design plan for the lagoon’s remediation.

It was noted several times by the engineers that certain stages are used to judge a lagoon’s condition, and while Big Valley’s lagoon isn’t in great shape, it’s not deemed as one of the worst stages either. 

Curtis noted MPE examines many small town, rural lagoons and it’s not unusual to see such lagoons leaking.

Some other advice for the lagoon situation included further inspection, finalizing the infrastructure study, looking for grant money and beginning design work.

The engineers noted a geotechnical inspection of the lagoon hasn’t been mentioned before, therefore it’s a change of scope to the original infrastructure study.

The engineers also discussed other parts of the study, including the road network in Big Valley and utility services such as water and sewer lines; inspection of village-owned buildings was also discussed. 

However, not all of that information was available at the council meeting and it was noted again the study is not complete and this was only an update.

Councillors accepted the update as information.

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 03, 2024 at 13:06

This item reprinted with permission from   East Central Alberta Review   Coronation, Alberta

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