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New state-of-the-art wastewater plant slated for Selkirk, Man.

Peter Caulfield
New state-of-the-art wastewater plant slated for Selkirk, Man.
Anugrah Patel @patel_anugrah (Twitter) - The new Selkirk wastewater treatment plant.

In just a few months, Selkirk, Man will be taking delivery of a new wastewater treatment plant.

Construction of the facility, which started in mid-2018, is expected to be completed by June 2021.

The new structure, which is being built behind the existing facility on the city’s main street, will be able to handle the wastewater requirements of Selkirk’s present-day population of slightly more than 10,000 and up to 11,000 more in the future.

Following changes to Manitoba legislation that limited treated wastewater to containing only small amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen, Selkirk decided to replace its current treatment plant, which was built in 1976 and was approaching the end of its useful life. 

The new wastewater treatment plant is the biggest capital project in Selkirk’s 136-year history.

The new facility will produce high-quality treated wastewater, which will enable Selkirk to meet any regulatory changes without costly retrofits or the need to build another facility.

The city selected membrane-bioreactor treatment (MBT) technology for its new facility.

In addition to providing what Selkirk says is the best environmental protection for the Red River and nearby Lake Winnipeg, MBT will be cost-effective over the life of the plant.

The facility will use two sets of membrane filtration cartridge units, each one capable of handling six million litres of wastewater per day.

Selkirk says it also has space for a third set that has been built and is ready to go. All that needs to be done is to drop the cartridges in.

Dan McDermid, City of Selkirk director of operations, says the new plant has enough capacity to serve more than just his city.

“It can handle the wastewater of the surrounding region, which has a population of 30,000, if needed,” said McDermid. “The rural areas in the vicinity use holding tanks or septic tanks.”

The plant is unique in that it is entirely powered by electricity.

“There is no gas heating, plus there is the potential for solar power or another energy source in the future,” said McDermid.

Selkirk will also be building a centre of excellence at the plant.

“We’re working with the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg and Red River College to set up training and testing facilities for their students,” said McDermid. “It will be the first of its kind in Manitoba.”

The wastewater treatment technology is manufactured by Fibracast Ltd., a Canadian (Hannon, ON, near Hamilton) manufacturer of ultrafiltration (UF) membranes.

The heart of Fibracast technology is FibrePlate, a polyvinylidene difluoride membrane.

Fibracast CEO Diana Benedek says FibrePlate is different from conventional wastewater filtration.

Membrane modules are mounted in such a way as to reduce hydraulic restrictions and eliminate debris collection zones that are common in other technologies.

“The beauty of using a UF membrane instead of a clarifier is that the treated wastewater comes out very clean and ready to be reused after disinfection,” said Benedek. “That saves a lot of process equipment.  In addition, the pores of our membranes are twice as small as the Covid-19 virus and most human pathogens [which means they don’t get through the membranes].”

Fibracast’s membranes are used in wastewater treatment plants operated by municipalities, private industry and developers.

Selkirk is the first municipal installation of the FibrePlate membrane bioreactor in Canada. There are other smaller packaged plants in Canada, including a very small community near Ottawa. 

Meanwhile, upriver in Winnipeg, it remains unclear when upgrades to that city’s North End Sewage Treatment Plant (NEWPCC) will be completed.

Due to its size and complexity, the upgrade is being delivered as three separate projects: Power supply and headworks facilities; biosolids facilities; and biological nutrient removal facility.

The construction of the power supply component of the project started in April 2018 and was substantially complete in December 2020. 

The procurement process for the headworks component is continuing.  It has been submitted to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) for funding and the City of Winnipeg is waiting to hear the federal government’s response.

The biosolids facilities project has also been submitted to the ICIP program.  Like its application for funding of the headworks, Winnipeg is awaiting a response.

The biological nutrient removal facility, the final upgrade, is currently under review by the City.

“The three levels of government have been in talks about the North End plant for 20 years,” said Brian Mayes, chairman of Winnipeg’s Standing Policy Committee on Water and Waste, “Finally, in 2019, the project was broken into three phases. Getting the money approved is the reason why it’s taken so long.”

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