Representatives of community organizations grilled Catalyst Paper Corporation and ministry of environment officials on the implications of co-treatment during the July 5 meeting of the company’s community stakeholders committee.
Members from Wildwood and Townsite ratepayers’ associations and Powell River Chapter of the Council of Canadians had numerous questions for officials, most of which could not be answered at this stage.
City of Powell River council approved a phased consolidated treatment option as the preferred choice for its liquid waste management plan (LWMP), subject to a long list of conditions, at a special council meeting on June 27. The option combines co-treatment, a proposal to treat the city’s sewage at Catalyst’s Powell River mill, with a stand-alone consolidated plant to be built sometime in the future.
Currently, Catalyst is not permitted to treat municipal sewage. It will need an amendment to its effluent permit if co-treatment is to proceed.
Sarah Barkowski, Catalyst’s environment manager for the Powell River division, reported that after council adopted the motion to proceed with a phased consolidated treatment option, Catalyst contacted the ministry of environment to request that it consider scheduling a pre-application meeting.
Cassandra Caunce, a ministry of environment section head, told the group she preferred to wait until after the minister approves the city’s LWMP. “It just wouldn’t seem worthwhile, if the goal posts should happen to move or shift, to have to go through the work of a pre-application meeting until it’s all done,” she said.
If co-treatment does become the city’s preferred option, Caunce said, then the permitting process would actually be a relatively streamlined process because “we would piggyback on top of the liquid waste management plan process, which is signed off by the minister. It would be a quicker process, rather than a standard permit amendment.”
Rick Maksymetz, general manager of the Powell River division, said Catalyst has a lot of questions about co-treatment as well that need to be answered. “Based upon the service and what we can see, it’s a feasible option and it seems like a very good option for the people of Powell River. It seems like it could possibly work, depending on what the details are and what additional information is uncovered.”
The biggest question he has, Maksymetz said, is what will happen to the city’s sewage when the mill shuts down its treatment plant, something that happens for three to four days every two to three years.
Some questions, including what will happen in the event Catalyst shuts down its Powell River division or declares bankruptcy, will be answered in the agreement the company works out with the city, Maksymetz said. “These are details to be negotiated.”
“There are some technical issues and questions as well. We have concerns potentially about the health impact to our employees.”
Barkowski said that the company’s effluent treatment plant is “oversized for the job we give it. It’s a similar situation to the power boiler. It’s an underutilized asset in our mill. While it sits there underutilized, I’ve learned how overworked and not-working-properly the city’s wastewater treatment plants are.”
It is to Catalyst’s benefit to enter into this arrangement because it helps with the overall viability of the mill, Barkowski added, and it helps with the tax situation. “It is a real win-win because there is an opportunity for the city to solve their problem.”