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Canmore residents cry foul over sewage stench

“We can hope that it is less, and the winds won’t change, and it's not as hot, but we have had a number of years where it is increasingly hot. We are seeing changes in winds, so I would like to say maybe it won’t happen next year, but I wouldn’t bet on it.”
Canmore Sign
Town of Canmore sign. GREG COLGAN RMO PHOTO

CANMORE – Sewage smells from Canmore's wastewater treatment plant had many residents crying foul this summer.

Due to high summer temperatures, and a change in wind direction, Town of Canmore officials say the odour that typically drifts out to less-populated areas of the Bow Valley from the south Canmore area, instead turned towards Canmore.

“There is an outdoor cistern there that typically will not cause problems for the town because our winds are typically coming out of the north and northwest,” Mayor Sean Krausert said. “However, there are three reasons why the smells will get worse.”

Krausert said that an operational problem, high temperatures, or a change of wind direction would be the cause of the smell coming into Canmore.

"This summer, there have been no operational upsets, but there has been more high temperatures and more winds from the east,” Krausert said. “If that is occurring more, climate change is likely a factor.”

Canmore resident Ashley Smyth has noticed the smell for the past four months.

"It is so much worse this summer than it has ever been," she said. "You used to smell it only really by the sewage plant mainly, but now it is wafted everywhere."

In the short term, Krausert said all that EPCOR can do is operate the plant under normal circumstances.

That is not to say that steps are not being taken to deal with the issue. A capital project to investigate odour controls at the wastewater treatment plant will now be moved up in the timeline.

“As population increases, inflow increases, and I think they suspected it would be more of an issue down the road, but due to the high temperatures and change of winds, it is now earlier,” Krausert said.

Due to the odour issue this summer, council will be looking at options, and costs, much sooner.

“Council will see what that will look like during budget deliberations in November,” Krausert said. “We will see what the options are and what that could look like from a budgetary point of view.”

While there is movement towards trying to mitigate the smell in the future, don’t expect it to be something that arrives next year.

“Even if brought into the budget this year, anything to do with utilities is not something that can be implemented quickly, and likely carries a decent price tag with it,” Krausert said.

Smyth, whose home is currently for sale, will be gone by the time the issue is resolved, but she hopes it can be fixed before too long.

"I feel it negatively impacts Canmore," she said. "We live here for a ton of money and we shouldn't have to live with this smell."

The smell should be less of a problem as temperatures cool through the autumn season, but depending on the direction of winds, the smell could creep back into Canmore.

“I think it will be less of an issue in autumn. If winds come from an east direction, it may still continue to some degree, but I hope it would be less,” Krausert said.

Looking ahead to next year, with climate change continuing to alter weather patterns both globally and locally, it is likely the smell could return.

“We can hope that it is less, and the winds won’t change, and it's not as hot, but we have had a number of years where it is increasingly hot,” Krausert said. “We are seeing changes in winds, so I would like to say maybe it won’t happen next year, but I wouldn’t bet on it.”