Input sought on new sanitary sewer bylaw

Crews use a vactor truck to help flush a blocked sanitary sewer line. The city receives roughly 500 requests per year to help clear blocked sanitary sewers. City of Prince George photo
Crews use a vactor truck to help flush a blocked sanitary sewer line. The city receives roughly 500 requests per year to help clear blocked sanitary sewers. City of Prince George photo

The City of Prince George is inviting residents and business operators to an open house to learn about the city’s sanitary sewer system and provide input into a proposed new bylaw. The city is planning on changing the sanitary sewer bylaw “in order to further safeguard city infrastructure, the public, and the environment, and potentially reduce sanitary sewer maintenance and wastewater treatment costs,” according to a city news release.

The city sanitary sewer system comprises about 680km of pipe that connects residential and commercial properties to the wastewater treatment plant and lagoons. Once treated, wastewater is discharged into the Fraser River and other creeks and streams. The annual cost of maintaining the sanitary sewer system is $4.5 million; nearly half that amount – $1.9 million – goes to operating the wastewater treatment plant. Another significant cost is associated with responding to the 500 service calls the city utilities division receives annually in regards to blocked sanitary sewers. 

“A new sanitary sewer use bylaw would improve regulations concerning the materials residents, industry, and businesses discharge or flush down the toilet,” said Director of Public Works, Gina Layte Liston. “To the city, these substances are not out of sight, out of mind. Substances in the sanitary sewer system can have serious consequences on public health and safety, municipal infrastructure, and the environment. A new bylaw would update the list of prohibited substances, clarify responsibilities and enforcement, and also make provisions for education that would help encourage compliance.”

Three codes of practice are being assessed for inclusion in an updated bylaw, which would target food service operations (350 in the city), mechanical repair operations (300 in the city), and vehicle wash operations in the city (200 in the city). The codes would form part of the proposed bylaw and set minimum standards for pre-treatment, inspection, maintenance and record keeping for all operations within specified commercial sectors.

According to the bylaw document, “the discharge of fats, oils and grease and other food wastes can lead to blockages in sanitary sewers, fouling of sewer pump stations and increased maintenance and wastewater treatment costs.” Similarly, wastewater from mechanical repair operations can contain solids, metals, oils and grease and solvents that exceed levels allowed under the bylaw and which actually corrode sewer pipes. In addition, wastewater from vehicle washes may include metals, elevated levels of oil and grease and unacceptable levels of acidity or alkalinity.

Residents, business owners, and industry representatives are invited to the open house at the Prince George Conference and Civic Centre on Wednesday, January 30, between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. Presentations will be given at 12:15 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Each presentation will be followed by a question and answer session. 

Feedback received from the Open House and survey will be considered in the new bylaw. A summary of the feedback will also be included when city council receives a report about the bylaw later this year. To learn more, visit the city website at https://princegeorge.ca/utilities. Beginning on January 30, an online survey will also be available on the web page.

By the numbers

Sanitary sewer infrastructure maintenance and wastewater treatment costs:

  • Annual cost of sanitary sewer operations and maintenance: $4.5 million
  • Annual cost to operate the City of Prince George wastewater treatment centre:  $1.9 million
  • Annual number of service requests received by utilities division for blocked sanitary sewers: 500
  • Annual cost of responding to blocked sanitary sewers and performing grease removal $420,000
  • Total cost of vacuuming and flushing trucks to support crews with removing sanitary sewer blockages: $1.7 million