Effluent discharge proposal draws fire

An environmental group is challenging the possibility of treated effluent being pumped into Okanagan Lake.

The City of Vernon is considering lake discharges of reclaimed water that exceeds the need for irrigating fields and parks.

“Treated or not, no effluent should be discharged directly into any lake,” said Brad Foster, with Sierra Club Okanagan.

“Even the treated effluent from sewage plants can contain pollutants such as trace-harmful chemicals and excess nutrients that can stimulate bacteria and algae growth that can adversely affect aquatic life as well as water quality.”

An outfall pipe in Okanagan Lake was constructed in the late 1980s.

There has only been one discharge ever, in 1996. That was a result of a wet summer preventing irrigation and the reservoir level had to be reduced.

Some officials have suggested discharging into the lake would reduce the power costs of pumping effluent up the hill to the spray irrigation reservoir in the Commonage. But Foster says options are required.

“A solar energy system should be installed,” he said.

The concept of lake discharges has surfaced as part of the city’s liquid waste management plan review.

“This isn’t to say this is where we’re going,” said Coun. Juliette Cunningham, adding that the review process will include public consultation.

“When you’re looking at a long-range plan, you need to look at everything. There may be some years when we can’t irrigate like we do (because of weather).”

Cunningham also questions why some groups are so focused on Vernon.

“Why is our highly treated water any different than that being discharged into the lake by Kelowna and other communities?” said Cunningham.


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