By Jamie Rieger
During the growing season when rainfall was scarce, Burdett area producers Corey Nelson and Lindsay Nelson approached the County of Forty Mile about drawing some water off the adjacent Burdett lagoon to irrigate their crops. Despite the request, the county has been unable to allow this because of ongoing issues with the water not being in compliance with Alberta Environment regulations and releasing water onto the field would lead to further contraventions.
The Nelsons, along with Alberta Environment representatives Dorothy Lok, municipal approvals engineer and Stephen Mathyk, compliance officer attended the Oct. 10 county meeting to discuss how to best move forward.
The county first experiencing problems with the lagoon four years ago after the Burdett water treatment plant was decommissioned and connected onto the new Highway Three Water Services Commission water line.
Since then, county utilities manager Stewart Payne has made numerous attempts to bring the water back into acceptable levels, most currently with electric conductivity and pH levels.
“We hired engineers, who recommended more testing and repair work, which we did over the next couple of years,” said Payne. “Grassy Lake, which is also tied into the Highway Three water system, had the same problem, but have larger cells and more volume. Since the Highway Three treatment place went into operation, we stopped the treatment of wastewater here and that’s when the problems started.”
Three years ago, the county conducted depth-measure testing and found the lagoon to have four to six inches of compacted sludge and another foot of uncompacted sludge.
Further testing and repair work has not yet resolved the issue and the county continues to test the water on a monthly basis. Each time the water is in contravention with AE regulations, Payne must submit a letter indicating what the contravention was and what was done to correct it.
“The Burdett lagoon has been in contravention since our water treatment plant was de-commissioned. Since then, we have done everything we can, including major repairs and it is still non-compliant,” said Payne.
Lok noted that regardless of this, the county has an obligation to meet Alberta Environment’s regulations.
“When we’re talking about wastewater systems, you have to meet the requirements. You guys were issued the registration and the requirements have to be met. The numbers are specific for irrigation,” said Lok. “The high salt content of that water could harm their land.”
“You only need seven months of storage for irrigation and we run into this problem with other municipalities and tell them they can’t irrigate,” she added.
Mathyk said it is up to the county to change its operations.
“We don’t change the requirements from lagoon to lagoon. What changes is how the municipality changes its operation,” said Mathyk.
The group discussed various options for the lagoon and for the release of water for the Nelson field next year.
“Next year, the storage cell is going to be full,” said Payne.