Whistler’s new state-of-the-art wastewater treatment system is up, running – and public.
The municipality recently hosted an open house highlighting the system’s many “green” features.
Plans were first announced for the much-needed wastewater treatment upgrades in 2005. Without any public consultation, municipal officials had decided to privatize the operation through a risky public-private partnership.
Municipal workers, members of CUPE 2010, joined forces with CUPE BC and the Council of Canadians to form a local water watch coalition.
Tapping into community opposition, the coalition was able to defeat privatization plans in 2006, putting the plant on track to become a public success story.
Last year, CUPE released a research paper analyzing the benefits of Whistler municipal council keeping its sewage plant P3-free. The paper was launched at the annual meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, held in Whistler.
Whistler’s wastewater treatment plant is one of the most advanced in Canada. Its composting and thermal exchange system will provide 95 percent of the heating and cooling for approximately 2,200 residents of the Cheakamus Crossing community (Olympic athlete’s village).
The District Energy System (DES), as it is called, is one of the highest-profile aspects of Whistler’s waste management system. It earned the 2009 Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators’ Environmental Award, as well as the 2008 Community Energy Association’s Energy Action Award for community planning and development.
The system reduces greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 90 per cent compared to using standard baseboard electric heating, and by 95 per cent compared to natural gas for space and water heating. financial assessments show this public project will save money in the long run.