The Region of Queens Municipality (RQM) is taking action against a pungent aroma that has wafted through Liverpool and area since the first week of June and disgusted locals and tourists alike.
It was decided at the RQM council meeting held in Caledonia July 9 that the region will move ahead with de-sludging of the primary cell at the sewage treatment facility. Work will begin early next week at an estimated cost of between $100,000 and $150,000, and will take about two weeks to complete.
RQM Chief Administration Officer Chris McNeill said that this may or may not eliminate the odour coming from the area of Liverpool's sewer treatment plant and tidal marsh areas. A number of steps have been taken by town to determine the cause of the smell.
"We are not just throwing darts at a dart board and hoping something sticks. We have gone through a very systematic and methodical process where we flushed the sewer lines, added filters to manhole covers, consulted with experts on the wetlands, consulted with experts on the sewer treatment plant," he said. "This is the next phase to where we go. We are being fiscally responsible, so we didn't go to this step at first."
Town staff have also skimmed the primary cell to remove excess fats and oils generated from the waste that has been received, and which may have contributed to the smell, but that didn't turn out to be the case.
McNeill said that town staff are not biologists, chemists or ecologists, but rely on expert advice and de-sludging the primary cell was the advice given to potentially solve the problem. He adds that while this is the next step, they continue to work on gathering information about other areas that may be contributing to the issue.
The de-sludging process will be self-contained and will not produce any extra noticeable odour.
This process requires a small barge to be placed within the cell to extract the sludge, which is then placed into cylindrical tubes, treated and de-watered on-site for one-to-three years. The tubes would then be disposed of in the Queens Solid Waste Management Facility and used as compost.
Councillor Susan MacLeod, who has been leading the charge to get work done, said that she is happy that something concrete is being done.
"I am pleased to have this done sooner rather than later," she said. "I live up near the high school and I smelled it there Sunday (July 7) morning. People in Milton, which is two kilometres away, could smell it. People aren't staying in town and tourists have left because of the smell."
She hopes that the de-sludging process will take care of the odour issue, but will continue to push council and staff to be diligent until the odour is gone.
Two weeks previously, she had invited an inspector with the Department of Environment to come and investigate the area and MacLeod suggested that the inspector indicated that the smell may be coming from the lagoon or marsh area located between the Hank Snow Museum and the Sewer Treatment Plant.
McNeill says the area has been tested and staff is waiting on results.
A special meeting of council was called by MacLeod, with the support of a majority of council members, July 8 at the RQM council chambers.
There were about 40 members in the gallery, with many of the expected to be able to speak, according to MacLeod, on the subject of the foul odour.
However, the agenda included just one item – "To discuss odour coming from the marsh wetland on Hank Snow Drive beyond the brook."
On the agenda, approved by the councillors, there was no place for public input. MacLeod tried to add that to the agenda, but was told she could not by Mayor Dagley.
"The mayor controls the meeting, he could say yay or nay, he said nay," said MacLeod, who has been on council for 15 years. "At any normal meeting you can add to it. There is a set agenda at a special council meeting. I didn't see anything written anywhere that you couldn't add anything."
Dagley responded saying that you can not add anything to a special meeting agenda.
"The agenda at regular council meetings is structured and has an item on the agenda public question/comment section. When councillors call a special council meeting, they set the agenda. It was not on the agenda to have a public comment section," he said.