The final stage of a large upgrade to the Charlie Lake sewage treatment plant is nearly complete, and the new sewage receiving facility for trucked-in waste is expected to be operational by 2016.
The completion of the $5.2 million upgrades will allow the facility to service the growing community for the next 15 to 20 years.
Pressure on the sewage system has been growing in recent years.
The second component, a new sewage receiving facility, will provide relief for private sewage hauling companies servicing rural residents.
The Peace River Regional District (PRRD) awarded the contract for both projects to Graham Infrastructure LP, which provided the lowest bid in the tender process, estimating its costs at $4.9 million.
Six other bids were received March 12, by Urban Systems, the consulting firm contracted by the PRRD to design and engineer the project.
Fair Share and gas tax funds are covering the costs of the project, said Chris Cvik, chief administrative officer for the PRRD.
Cvik says the treatment plant is one upgrade the regional district considered in conjunction with a proposed multimillion dollar network of water and sewage treatment facilities for the entire region.
A series of 15 meetings were held last fall in communities throughout the PRRD on that plan. Feedback was mixed, with some residents in favour and others concerned they would be paying for services they would not use.
Rural residents will decide by referendum whether to pay for septic receiving facilities in Dawson Creek, Chetwynd and Charlie Lake, as well as potable water stations dotted throughout the region.
The plan calls for the PRRD to fund upgrades to treatment plants in Dawson Creek and Chetwynd to ensure private companies hauling rural residents' waste will have a place to take it. It also calls for the construction of 10 potable water refill sites.
The plan was drafted after problems at the Fort St. John lagoon treatment system forced the city to refuse trucked-in waste from outside the municipality. A temporary receiving facility at the Charlie Lake sewage lagoon site opened in response, and it will remain operational until the new station is built.
Although the Charlie Lake upgrade and receiving facility are included in the plan, they are not subject to the referendum. Cvik said the work was carried out as a regular infrastructure upgrade.
with files from Jonny Wakefield