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$16 million wastewater treatment upgrade near completion

ST. PAUL - The $16 million wastewater treatment plant upgrade in St. Paul is near completion.

After a year and a half of ongoing construction, the last pieces of the project are now underway, and the facility is mostly up and running. The construction site located near Lagassé Park has become part of the landscape in the southeast portion of town since October of 2019.

Operations at the plant will be taken over by the Town of St. Paul at the end of the month, according to Director of Utilities Bert Pruneau, who has had a hands-on role throughout the project and is well-versed in all the ins and outs of the new - much larger and much more involved - treatment process.

The new facility and additional processes will see a huge improvement in the quality of water being discharged into Upper Therien Lake.

The project has seen a few challenges - including delays due to extreme weather and bids on the project coming in much higher than originally anticipated. The Town of St. Paul had to request additional funds from the provincial government to help cover an increase due to the price of steel and other unexpected costs.

In June of 2019, the town was notified that the project would cost about $5 million more than originally expected. The town weighed its options, and ultimately decided to proceed with the project. In September of 2019, the town received confirmation that the province would fund over $3 million worth of the increased costs.

Since then, the project has mostly been running on schedule and is running on budget. 

The new wastewater treatment plant has been designed with a 20-year mindset. The facility will be capable of meeting any growth the town is expected to see over the next two decades. During the planning process, projected growth was pegged at just over 7,000 people to be living in St. Paul in 2028, and 8,300 by 2038.

The processes involved in the new facility are also much more environmental friendly, and are expected to improve the overall health of the nearby lake.

During a preliminary study done in 2015, it was found that the existing system had insufficient treatment capacity for "current and projected wastewater flows," according to a project overview document. The new facility was designed to meet provincial and federal effluent limits.

"The upgrades at the wastewater treatment plant will ensure wastewater is adequately treated to standards that meet the health and safety requirements for the public and environment," confirms Pruneau. 

He explains that one of the challenges the project has had to work through was the fact that the old system had to continue to operate while the upgrade was taking place. 

"Upgrades were undertaken with minimal disruptions to the treatment process, and day-to-day operations," he said.

A long list of upgrades have taken place at the plant, from increased lift station capacity, to grit removal, phosphorous reduction, sludge management, emergency storage, and more. 

Janice Huser

About the Author: Janice Huser

Janice Huser has been with the St. Paul Journal since 2006. She is a graduate of the SAIT print media journalism program, is originally from St. Paul and has a passion for photography.
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