Stettler county councillors heard a report that the municipality is working with a property owner to prevent lagoon releases onto his farmland in the future.
The report was made at the Aug. 11 regular meeting of council.
Property owner Glen Goertzen spoke to councillors at their July meeting about the release of treated effluent from the Red Willow lagoon last fall, some of which ended up on his farmland which he rents to a third party.
Director of Municipal Services Andrew Brysiuk stated councillors wanted staff to take the time they needed to examine and address issues surrounding the lagoon release.
The report began by explaining that increased use of the Red Willow lagoon, including from Buffalo Lake summer villages and industrial users within the Town of Stettler, meant the facility had more effluent in it than usual.
However, Brysiuk noted that it didn’t appear the drainage ditch in question was completed as planned back in 2008.
“The original drainage ditch design specified constructing the ditch grade to prevent drainage into Mr. Goertzen’s wetland,” stated the report to council.
“This construction however, did not occur when the Red Willow Lagoon was constructed in 2008.
The drainage was constructed to the specifications of the engineered plans following the drainage problem which occurred in April 2021. The work undertaken this year following the release of the effluent, resolved the deficiency (the drainage ditch not being completed in 2008).
“Operations completed the ditch work to the design in 2021. However, the design prevents the landowner’s wetland from draining through the ditch.
Administration is recommending that further infrastructure work, if approved by council and Alberta Environmental Protection, would allow both the lagoon and wetland to discharge into the ditch and follow the natural drainage patterns from there.”
Brysiuk stated during his report to council the county could have communicated better with Goertzen leading up to the 2020 release.
Also, the county recently forwarded testing data to the landowner, which should have been done sooner.
Brysiuk stated a fence that the property owner dislikes will also be removed but not until harvest is over.
He added that, because of the drought this summer, it’s unlikely the lagoon will need to be discharged this fall.
Coun. James Nibourg stated it’s important that if the county makes a mistake it steps forward and makes it right. Also, he asked what the costs for this work could be.
County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy stated the original engineer was tracked down and the county is planning to meet with him.
However, if the county ends up paying for the work it could cost between $5,000 and $10,000.
Coun. Les Stulberg asked how often the lagoon could expect to be drained, and Brysiuk stated he’d be surprised if it’s drained more than once a year.
Coun. Wayne Nixon stated rainfall in the summer of 2020 may have contributed to the lagoon’s high-level last fall.
Contacted by the ECA Review Aug. 23, property owner Goertzen stated his two concerns about the situation, one, the effect the discharge had on his renter’s crop, was made good.
The county confirmed in its report they paid compensation to the renter for crop damage.
Goertzen stated his other concern, effluent on his farmland, is being addressed. He said he just wants to see the effluent go where it’s supposed to go and he stated talks with Stettler County are promising.
“I feel they’re discussing the issues with me quite readily,” he added.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter