A Persistent Poop Problem

Upgrades will hopefully clean up Cumberland's act.

Nearly $10 million in funding will improve Cumberland’s failing lagoon sewage treatment system

Cumberland says it has a “made in Cumberland solution” to its pesky problem with sewage treatment.

It’s long overdue.

The village has been non-compliant with government sewage regulations for more than 2 decades. That’s a lot of crap over the years.

Cumberland treats its sewage in a lagoon located between Cumberland Road and Royston Road. From there the effluent flows first into Maple Lake Creek and then into the Trent River, before ultimately dumping into Baynes Sound.

Problem is, this ecosystem-based treatment system has been poisoning the ecosystem for way too long. Like a dirty secret, Cumberland’s poopy problem just wasn’t going away.

Provincial government staff made site inspections in 2012, 2016 and 2017. What they saw stunk like a skunk. Water samples showed that Cumberland was exceeding levels of phosphorous and not meeting disinfectant standards as set out by the terms of its Evironmental Management Act permit.

That’s why the province slapped the village with non-compliance notices, according to a 2018 report in the magazine Environmental Science Engineering.

In a letter sent to the village 5 years ago, the Environment Ministry said Cumberland faced fines of more than $85,000 unless it cleaned up its sewage problem.

It was time for this hipster village to get its shit together.

Money for infrastructure has always been a challenge for this village of nearly 5,000 people.

In particular, the sewage problem has lingered like a bad case of the runs.

Village residents voted in a 2016 referendum to flush the Comox Valley Regional District’s proposed south sewar project. Instead they opted out and decided to got it alone. Up until that point, Cumberland didn’t even have its own wastewater advisiory committee.

Still even with a new committee in place, fixing Cumberland’s toxic sewage problems continued to be as stubborn as a plugged toilet.

Now Cumberland has the money to deal with it. $7.1 million in provincial and federal government funding makes possible much needed upgrades to wastewater treatment. It’s the village’s most expensive infrastructure project ever.

“The Wastewater Upgrades Project is about improving the treatment provided by the current lagoon system, rather than building a mechanical treatment plant,” according to the Village of Cumberland website.

In other words the plan is to improve the lagoon system rather than replace it.

The goal is to meet provincial environmental standards and remove all manmade toxins from the effluent before it’s released into the creek.

They’ll do it by changing the flow path in the lagoons, adding extra aeration and adding nutrients for phosphorus removal. The upgrades will also include environmentally friendly disinfection and a biochar reed bed for pharmaceutical removal.

Biochar is a charcoal-like substance made by burning organic material from agricultural and forestry wastes.

That’s just Phase 1.

Another $2.5 million will be spent in Phase 2 on things like wetland enhancement and stormwater treatment upgrades.

It’s about time. Cumberland has been flushing with a guilty conscience for too long.