City of Merritt possibly entering infrastructure agreement with Trans Mountain

·3 min read

The City will enter into an agreement with Trans Mountain to provide the Crown corporation with sanitary wastewater disposal and bulk water, provided Trans Mountain covers all costs associated with the necessary infrastructure projects.

Trans Mountain is currently in the process of setting up a camp outside of Merritt at their ‘Ranchlands site’, which will be a station for approximately 400 workers for the period of Spring 2021 to Spring 2023.

With this number of workers, Trans Mountain anticipates that it will need roughly 75 cubic metres per day of potable water coming in and approximately that same amount of sanitary wastewater removed.

Originally, potable water and wastewater disposal was to be handled in Kamloops, but this represented a significant cost to Trans Mountain, and a revenue opportunity loss for the City of Merritt.

However, preliminary staff inquiries found that Merritt did not have the infrastructure to provide for the disposal of sanitary wastewater, meaning Trans Mountain would need to call a City Works employee, drive a truck to a city manhole, install a flow meter and then dump the wastewater. To do this three times per day, every day was not feasible.

“It was very labour intensive, and so, the question was, are they willing to build us the infrastructure so we can then sell the services?” said Sean Smith, City of Merritt CAO.

Trans Mountain agreed to this proposal, in keeping with a trend of providing several communities along the TMX route with the necessary infrastructure. Such was the case in the District of Clearwater, where a $3.1 million funding agreement was reached with Trans Mountain to provide upgrades to the area’s drinking water, wastewater management and sewage treatment systems.

Currently, the City of Merritt processes roughly 3000 cubic metres of waste each day, but has the capacity to process up to 4800 cubic metres. An additional 75 cubic metres represents just a 2.5% increase in current levels, which is within the city’s ability to process. This may change during spring freshets when groundwater infiltration overwhelms the system.

Where fresh water is concerned, the city distributes approximately 6027 cubic metres of water each day, meaning the additional 75 cubic metres would be just a 1.24% increase. However, questions were raised by council about whether that amount would be sustainable when the area faces summer droughts, an increasingly common occurrence.

“I think the public is right and council is right to be concerned about the overall water consumption,” said Smith.

“What I would say here is that if we are going through extreme drought, we would ask that Trans Mountain go to another location, that’s something that has already been tentatively discussed.”

I think that in Merritt anytime that something comes up that might put pressure on our water systems, red flags go up,” said Councillor Fehr.

“But you’ve addressed them here, and at the same time we also have plans to address them in the long term.”

The agreement would represent significant revenue for the city, predicted to be as high as $200,000 to $300,000 per year.

“I think $47.50 was the per cubic metre amount, so if you’re talking about 75 (cubic metres) a day for just short of two years it’s a very significant amount,” said Smith.

“I think that financially this is something that makes a lot of sense.”

Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald