A $40 million expansion of the water and wastewater facilities in Kananaskis Country is being planned.
The purpose of the major project by the Province of Alberta is to bring those facilities into the 21st century and be able to meet future water and wastewater standards.
The facility, located near Evan Thomas Creek, is the only one owned by the provincial government and was originally built in the early 1980s.
The technological upgrades will also improve distribution in the event of a wildfire and improve water services at Nakiska.
In fact, the area does not meet standards set out by the insurance industry for reservoir volumes if a wildfire were to occur.
John Gibson with Alberta Infrastructure said the system does not have the flows needed to fight a forest fire if it were to happen.
The government is undertaking a private/public partnership (P3) to design, build and operate the facility.
Gibson said the government will fund 80 per cent of the capital costs and the remainder will be funded up front by the contractor.
Over the 10-year contract, that will see the company chosen also operate the facility and it will be reimbursed the 20 per cent, according to Gibson. It will also be in charge of maintenance and operations as well as meeting licence renewals.
Currently, the facility is being managed by Aquatech and Gibson said there are four or five companies in the province capable of meeting all the qualifications of the contract.
While the upgrades are not meant to handle added capacity in the system, he said it will be another 20 years before additions will be needed.
In fact, the wastewater treatment side of the facility has gone beyond its capacity to handle sewage at least once.
“The fact that we have met capacity means we need to get going,” Gibson said.
The reservoir at Kananaskis Village will be expanded from 110 cubic metres to 2,500 cubic metres.
In addition to increasing the one reservoir, a second will be added near Nakiska and the pipe system will also be upgraded with wider pipes.
Liberal critic Harry Chase was concerned about the fact the public open house for the project was officially announced the day before.
He said the government deliberately does things at the last minute to frustrate the process.
He also criticized the use of P3s, which he said studies have shown do not in the long run create value.
“There is a potential for the contractor to walk away from the project and have a reduced profit, but again, the taxpayer is left holding the bag,” Chase said.
Engineer Dan Parker with MPE said water currently meets Alberta Environment standards, but those keep improving and the upgrades would allow the plant flexibility to meet new ones.
“You always want to build to a future standard,” he said, adding it will also create a regionalized system.
Currently, drinking water is taken from wells and treated with chlorination. The upgrade would add ultra violet disinfection and upgrade the wastewater system with membrane filters before effluent in discharged into the Kananaskis River.
There is some concern the wells are affected by surface water and that is the reason for the addition of UV treatment.
Parker said all approvals are in place from Alberta Environment and the federal government for the upgrade which will have five river or creek crossings.
Two of those can use existing pipes and expand them trhough a process known as pipe bursting. The rest will see contractors install new pipes under the water body.