City celebrates completion of $40 million wastewater treatment upgrade

It might not be the “sexiest” piece of infrastructure, but we’d be in big trouble without it.

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Municipal and provincial government officials proved that praise can also sink, as they gathered at the Saskatoon sewage treatment plant on Wednesday.

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Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark, MPP Marv Friesen and various high-ranking city employees were all on hand to thank plant staff, as they celebrated the completion of a $40 million project to adding a new digester and making improvements to the facility’s heating system.

“It’s not the sexiest piece of infrastructure,” Clark acknowledged of the sewage treatment facility. But, he said, the often overlooked plant is vital to the health and safety of around 350,000 people in the city and surrounding region, as well as protecting the ecosystem of the South Saskatchewan River.

He said the facility’s team deserves praise for keeping everything running smoothly during the COVID-19 pandemic, while accepting work on the new unit unveiled on Wednesday. He also thanked the contractors who worked on the project, adding that it was completed ahead of schedule and under budget.

A new digester unit at the Saskatoon Wastewater Treatment Plant was unveiled on June 15, 2022. The digester is an oxygen-deprived environment where bacteria break down solid waste extracted from Saskatoon's wastewater during the process of treatment.
A new digester unit at the Saskatoon Wastewater Treatment Plant was unveiled on June 15, 2022. The digester is an oxygen-deprived environment where bacteria break down solid waste extracted from Saskatoon’s wastewater during the process of treatment. Photo by Heywood Yu /Star Phoenix of Saskatoon

Pamela Hamoline, acting director of Saskatoon Water, said the site was a hive of vehicles and equipment during much of the construction, which began in 2019. At the peak of construction, about 50 workers were on place, in addition to the 80 or so staff it takes to run the plant.

The new digester is the plant’s fourth. They constitute the last part of the water treatment cycle; the solid material extracted from the water is placed in an oxygen-deprived tank, where bacteria form to break it down. The process leaves behind solids that are used as soil nutrients and generate methane. Upgrades announced Wednesday include equipment to capture methane and use it to heat the processing plant, which will reduce the facility’s gas bill.

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“It improves how we burn the gas and make full use of it,” Hameline explained, adding that the fourth digester allows them to take other units offline for maintenance much more easily.

Plant manager Mike Sadowski said the new digester should be enough to meet the needs of the next 30 years of projected population growth.

The city paid $29.2 million of the project’s $48.2 million budget. The provincial and federal governments each contributed $9.5 million.

  1. Jerome McDonald, a graduate of Saskatchewan Polytechnic's kanatan nipiy (water is clean/clean water) program, is ready to help bring clean water to his home community of Fond du Lac.

    The program aims to train First Nations water treatment operators

  2. Perry Mcleod is the Peepeekisis First Nation Water Treatment Plant Operator.  Photo courtesy of Ethan Butterfield, University of Regina School of Journalism.

    Lack of funding for piped water for First Nations in Saskatchewan. means some can’t drink from their taps

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