Our innovation starts with our people – our staff. They work proudly, using strong education and dedication to improve wastewater quality, improve overall costs of wastewater treatment, and how we interact with the environment.
We have some of the highest trained staff in Alberta. Among our staff are seven trained as Level III or higher in wastewater treatment – we are required to have one. We also have seven in wastewater collection as Level III or higher – we are required to have one. This ensures as people retire, or are required to take extended leaves, we do not need to rely on other areas to support our system. In fact, we support many other municipalities when in need.
Aquatera has a unique relationship with the Wapiti River. We divert water – meaning we take water out for drinking water, and return most of it as treated wastewater. Our license with Alberta Environment to divert water was one of the first for a municipal utility in the province. On average, we return 80% of what we take from the river.
Our facilities are each unique. We have two lagoons, one in Sexsmith and another in Clairmont. The Clairmont lagoon is currently part of a pilot project using fast growing poplar trees from to re-use treated effluent and reduce discharge volumes.
One of the biggest challenges for Aquatera in the short term is at our main treatment facility which serves all of Grande Prairie and parts of the County. The wastewater treatment plant is 25 years old, and will no longer meet regulations or capacity requirements. Therefore, it will require a major upgrade to meet changes in provincial regulations in 2013 and future capacity needs of our region. The original estimate for this upgrade was $60 million. However, our staff worked with consultants to help them understand such things as underutilized pumps, pipes and other infrastructure in the plant. Because of this, the estimate has now been reduced to $45 million – still significant, but our staff saved customers over $15 million so far!