With the possibility of new federal guidelines coming into effect, the City of Fort St. John has some decisions to make about how it handles water effluent.

The Committee of the Whole was given a presentation on the implementation of Effluent Reuse by Joel Short and Brian Hobbs from Urban Systems.

The presentation outlined various options the City has for deciding how it could reuse wastewater, including working with the City’s existing policies of water conservation and revenue sufficiency.

Some of the eight potential guidelines brought forward by Urban Systems were based on balancing the needs of residents, industry and the environment; providing the infrastructure to sufficiently clean water for use in industry; and creating a balance between the benefits and drawbacks of certain infrastructure developments.

Reusing treated effluent can be beneficial for various uses that don’t require potable water, such as for washing vehicles or for fracking purposes by the oil and gas industry.

Currently, wastewater treatment is regulated by each province, says Infrastructure and Capital Works Director Victor Shopland. However, Shopland says the federal government has been considering stepping in to create nation-wide guidelines.

He says one of the main changes that has been discussed by the federal government is the removal of ammonia from wastewater because of its toxicity to fish.

Although the City does test the acidity of wastewater as well as the amount of ammonia in the effluent being released, Shopland says if the City was required to remove ammonia it would have to build a whole new treatment facility.

The City currently uses a process where wastewater flows into a lagoon. Oxygen is then pumped into the lagoon allowing bacteria to grow and dissolve any solid material before the water is released into the Peace River.

At the meeting, councillors discussed the possibility of partnering with industry members to help build a treatment facility, however generally agreed that it would be in the City’s best interest not to partner with just one company like the City of Dawson Creek had.

In August, the City of Dawson Creek announced it had partnered with Shell Canada to construct a Reclaimed Water Plant that would treat wastewater to be reused instead of simply released back into the river system. For its financial contribution towards the new facility, Shell is given priority over the first 3,400 cubic metres treated daily. The City then has the rights to the next 1,100 cubic metres.