Celebrating Clean Water in Kamloops
“It was a bit like a family reunion with the various City staff – retired and current – consultants, contractors and suppliers who came together to celebrate the success of the facility and to learn how it has been operating and performing over the last 10 years,” says Lisa Clark. “There is a special bond that connects the team, formed by working shoulder-to-shoulder for so many years to provide safe drinking water for our community.”
Starting in the early 1990s, many people at the Kamloops office were involved in the project until the facility was commissioned in March 2005.
“It was a project that comes along once in a lifetime,” says Lisa. “We had a great collaborative team, interesting technical challenges, and the opportunity to innovate.”
One reason the project was technically successful is due to the performance of the membrane system supplied by Zenon. Pilot testing to select the treatment process was one of Lisa’s first projects as an Urban Systems drinking water engineer.
The Zenon membranes were a huge part of the cost, amounting to $23 million out of the $48.5 million project. The investment was worthwhile. The system’s capacity was optimized beyond what was expected, and can now supply far more than the original design capacity of 160 million litres of drinking water per day. This has been achieved without any major changes to the system.
“The City operators continually strive to optimize the performance of the system,” explains Lisa. “They have been able to do some great things. It’s a good reminder for designers to build in features that allow operators to fine-tune their systems. For example, the centre contains a room with a small scale, fully-functioning pilot plant. They can try different chemicals and see how it runs at a small scale. This gives the operators the mindset to always improve.”
A partnership between Thompson Rivers University (TRU), the City of Kamloops and Zenon Environmental formed the Water Education and Research Centre. The centre has both an operational and a research laboratory as well as a classroom at the water treatment plant. They provide certificate training in water and wastewater utilities.
“Twenty years ago, there were only four or five water treatment plants in BC,” says Peter Coxon, a senior project consultant on the original team. “Now, there are so many that there’s a shortage of operators. We need competent people.”
“TRU is particularly proud of the number of First Nations operators that have graduated from their program – over 100,” adds Lisa. “It’s quite the accomplishment and will make a big difference to local communities.”
The idea for partnering with TRU came up when Lisa joined City staff, council, and City water committee members on a tour of Zenon’s facility in Ontario in 2001. The idea was embraced wholeheartedly by the stakeholders due to the project vision developed by Lisa and Tony Bradwell, senior landscape architect.
“At the anniversary celebration, City staff and local politicians referred to the vision and how the water treatment plant has a legacy,” says Lisa. “It has been a stepping stone to other innovative and sustainable projects in Kamloops.”
“Looking back, it was innovative. And it still is innovative today,” adds Peter. “When a project is sustainable, creative, and has staying power 10 years later, then you know you’ve done the right thing.”
Shortly after completion, the building was awarded Gold LEED certification for sustainable building design. Speaking to sustainability, Peter reminds us that water treatment is about borrowing water from nature and recycling it.
“The property is open to the public. There is no fence or ‘keep out’ sign. The building is a part of the community. As well as contributing through its education component, it offers the opportunity to communicate with the public about the environment. Tours of the plant help people understand where water comes from. The green roof and permeable pavement treat rainwater. The whole idea of cycle, through the adjacent wetlands and waste, demonstrates how the plant collaborates with the land. The sides of the building interact and reinforce adjacent activities.”
Land that used to store transformers is now a wetland home to an abundance of songbirds. The parking lot is shared by plant staff, tourists and visitors to the Millennium Trail. The back where train tracks run is used as the industrial area of the plant.
“The thing we build usually becomes the focus,” says Peter. “We see it as a checklist of things to get done, rather than a potential for something much greater.”
Both Lisa and Peter agree that the success of this project was largely due to the excellence in team collaboration.
“The success of the water treatment plant, the training program, and the surrounding wetlands have made Kamloops a more vibrant place to live,” adds Lisa.
For the recent anniversary celebration we put together a video using pieces from an original video we produced when the centre was first opened. We used some footage from the original video and added some before and after shots of the centre to show the transformation that has occurred in 10 years.