It has been operating for the past year, but Yorkton’s Water Treatment Plant recently held its official grand opening. The new facility, developed to replace aging infrastructure in the city, is the largest capital project in Yorkton’s history, and also takes a different approach to many problems common in water treatment.
Michael Buchholzer, Director of Environmental Services, says that the project has been in the works since 2004, and the new plant was necessary to consolidate water treatment facilities and modernize the water treatment plans. The city has gone from four to one water treatment plant, and the new facility is designed to accommodate any growth the city might see.
“With the four antiquated water treatment plants that we had, we could not expand them. They were in locations where they were closed in. If we could expand it, the raw water wasn’t there. It just didn’t give us the versatility. Here now we have the versatility of the raw water supply and room for expansion,” Buchholzer says.
One point of pride is the system used for backwash water, a system which the city believes is unique in North America. In a standard system, backwash water is flushed into the sewage system, which increases the water treated by the sewage plant. In this plant, backwash is directed to a series of settling ponds, which naturally purify the water, which will gradually recharge the natural aquifer. The water will also be used in the development of green space and recreation areas in the city, including fish ponds which will be stocked and create a spawning environment.
This setup saved $3 million in infrastructure costs, and is estimated to save $6.5 million in treatment costs over the life of the plant. Buchholzer explains that looking for innovative plans like this are necessary for all communities going forward.
“When we start evaluating the loading on the wastewater treatment facility, the loading on the wastewater piping system, especially after we just had a flood two years ago, that really hit home and we said that this water has to be looked at differently. Communities have to start looking at this water differently, and what are some of the options that we can use for that water?” Buchholzer explains.
At a price tag of $33 million total, this is the largest capital project which the city has undertaken. Of that price tag, the Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan contributed $7.36 million each, with the City of Yorkton picking up the balance of $18.3 million. Buchholzer says that with the design used the plant will be able to fill the city’s water needs long after the people involved in its development are gone, and the plant is easily expandible if the city outgrows its current capacity.
Mayor James Wilson says that the plan was to make a facility which can adapt as the city grows. He notes that this plant currently has a capacity that’s double the current population, and that having a modern facility like this is vital to keeping Yorkton a place where people want to live.
“Water is the lifeline for each individual in the community and each household,” Wilson says.
While the plant has a large price tag, Wilson says that when it comes to water cities can’t afford to cut corners. He says that working with the people in the city has been a big part of what has made the treatment plant work.