In October, Alberta Big Lakes County updated its briefing document for lobbying the provincial government to find an alternate solution to shuttering the Swan Hills Treatment Centre (SHTC) after it closes in 2025.
The document begins by summarizing the plant’s capabilities in safely processing a wide range of hazardous materials, including Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), before laying out the devasting impact the plant’s closure will have on both Swan Hills and Big Lakes County. It continues on to ask some very pertinent questions:
· When the plant closes, and all the bio-medical waste is sent to other plants, what will happen to all the hazardous household waste? Will it go to Alberta landfills? Be shipped out of the country? Or overseas?
· Is it possible to convert the steam generated by the plant to electrical power and funnel that back into the grid?
· How much revenue has the plant generated for the province during its 35-year lifespan?
Probably the most interesting questions posed in the updated document are contained in this passage, “Council has heard there are two companies interested in purchasing the facility, is it possible to sell or come to an agreement to keep the facility open? Has the province explored the option of selling to private enterprise?”
The document then states that “Big Lakes County and the Town of Swan Hills both understand the financial pressure that the provincial government faces. Both of our communities wish to be partners in finding a solution that will reduce the province’s $176 million reclamation liability of this site while simultaneously diversifying and stimulating the local economy. We believe there are other alternatives available for this site. Alternatives that will allow the province to offset reclamation costs and divest of the asset while contributing to the economic development of the region.”
Finally, a request is made to the province for a grant of $250,000, similar to the Coal Transition Fund, so that Big Lakes County and Swan Hills can “seek outside expertise in developing other possible options for this site.”
The Grizzly Gazette reached out to Big Lakes County for more information. Brett Hawken, Director of Community and Protective Services, was kind enough to provide the briefing document referred to in this article and answer some follow-up questions by email.
Frustratingly, there has not yet been a response from the provincial government.
When asked if there was any further information that could be shared about the two companies referred to in the briefing document as being interested in purchasing the SHTC, Hawken responded that they have no information at this time.
When asked what type of lobbying efforts Big Lakes County has made to convince the Government of Alberta to sell or repurpose the Swan Hills Treatment Centre, Hawken responded that there have been “various Minister meetings over the last few years.”
Regarding the request for the $250,000 grant to seek outside expertise, Hawken was asked if this was to be a joint effort or if the two municipalities were seeking separate grants. And if they had received an answer from the province. Hawken responded that the two municipalities would work collaboratively if successful, but once again, there has still not been any word back from the province.
Hopefully, a positive resolution to this dilemma can be achieved to prevent any opportunities to leverage such a specialized facility from going to waste.
By Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Feb 22, 2023