Lacombe is flush with room for future growth now that a regional sewer line connects the city, county and Town of Blackfalds to the Red Deer water treatment plant.
The $71-million pipeline has been operating since April and includes two major lift stations, emergency storage reservoirs and odour management. It will send treated water back to the watersheds it came from.
For Lacombe, it allows the city to phase out its sewage lagoons, most of which will be reclaimed for other purposes.
As a result of the infrastructure upgrade, the city now has capacity for many more residents.
“We’re very pleased that we can realize growth of at least tripling our existing population. We’ve got growth potential for a long, long time to come,” said Mayor Grant Creasey following a celebration held at the Lacombe Memorial Centre on Friday afternoon.
A project 14 years in the making
Former Blackfalds mayor Melodie Stol was vice-chair of the North Red Deer Regional Wastewater Services Commission when the project was conceived in 2004. She said at the time, the province wanted municipalities to meet new, higher standards for wastewater.
“Sewage lagoons were not the type of infrastructure that they wanted. You want to protect source water, protect the water that’s going into the river, overall environmental health,” Stol said.
However, Stol said no single municipality had the customer base to make a sewer line viable, so they partnered together.
“All of a sudden, you’ve achieved that efficiency that you were looking for that makes the project doable,” she said.
Construction started in 2017, completed ahead of schedule and under budget. The federal government contributed $29.8 million and the province kicked in $33.2 million, with the commission covering the rest.
Creasey, who serves as the commission’s current vice-chair, said the pipeline was sized so that other communities can connect to the system. While there have not been any negotiations for that to happen, he said they’re open to them.
Long-term though, the goal is to get central Alberta sending its effluent for treatment in Red Deer, said Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason, who attended the celebration along with federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi.
“I think we’ll wait and see what the regional wastewater commission has planned. This is a key piece of it though,” Mason said.
“The treatment will be centralized in Red Deer and all of the surrounding region will have their wastewater as part of this network so that it can be treated most effectively and in a most environmentally-sustainable way in Red Deer.”