$2-billion upgrade planned for sewage treatment plant near YVR Airport

May 9 2019, 10:18 pm

While the region’s transportation infrastructure projects often get the spotlight, given their significant costs and direct visible impact to everyday life, a planned sewage utility project on a site just northwest of Vancouver International Airport should not be overshadowed.

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Metro Vancouver Regional District is in the early stages of planning a $2-billion upgrade and expansion of the existing Iona Wastewater Treatment Plant.

It will transition the facility from primary treatment to a more environmentally secondary treatment, with a filtration system that removes soluble organic matter that escapes primary treatment. This is expected to significantly improve the water quality that is discharged in an outflow pipe into the Strait of Georgia.

Iona Wastewater Treatment Plant

Diagram of Iona Wastewater Treatment Plant outflow pipe into the Strait of Georgia. (Metro Vancouver Regional District)

Other improvements include reinforcing the facility to withstand an earthquake and sea level rise, minimizing emitted odour, recovering sustainable energy from wastewater, minimizing odour, and integrating the facility with Iona Beach Regional Park and the surrounding environment.

As this plant is largely responsible for treating the wastewater emitted from the jurisdiction of the City of Vancouver, it will have a major impact on the municipality’s ratepayers.

The project will be funded through hikes in the regional district’s liquid waste levies, with a 7.9% increase in 2019, 6% increase in 2020, 3.3% in 2021, 5% increase in 2022, and 2.4% increase in 2023. More substantial rate increases will be created between 2024 through 2045, when most of the costs and debt with the project have been covered.

“Currently, Metro Vancouver’s financial plan and corresponding rates have not anticipated any federal or provincial infrastructure funding,” reads a City of Vancouver staff report.

“This is to ensure that Metro Vancouver has the financial capacity to complete this Project regardless of the participation of the other levels of government. If and when federal and/or provincial funding is secured, the levies and rate increases will be adjusted accordingly.”

Iona Wastewater Treatment Plant

Map of Metro Vancouver’s sewage treatment facilities. (Metro Vancouver Regional District)

Local officials hope future provincial and federal government funding contributions will lighten the burden on ratepayers.

A precedent has already been set with the new $778-million North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is currently under construction in North Vancouver for a scheduled completion in 2020. The provincial government has contributed $193 million, the federal government has contributed $212 million, and the remainder from regional ratepayers.

Currently, there is $16.5 million budgeted for the Iona Wastewater Treatment Plant to cover early planning and technical work costs. Detailed design and construction work is anticipated between 2020 and 2030, with the facility operational by the end of 2030.

Iona Wastewater Treatment Plant has been expanded six times since its initial opening in 1963 to meet the sewage discharge needs of the growing population and heightened treatment standards.

Besides providing primary treatment to the City of Vancouver, it also serves the UBC and the University Endowment Lands and parts of Burnaby and Richmond.

Iona Wastewater Treatment Plant

Map of Iona Wastewater Treatment Plant’s coverage area. (Metro Vancouver Regional District)

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