Swan Hills Treatment Centre open house

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

The Swan Hills Treatment Centre is operated by Suez. It is on 10,000 Chrystina Lake Road fifteen minutes outside of the Town of Swan Hills.

The waste plant is on the top of a hill looking out over the forest.

The site was chosen in 1983. In 1985, construction and environmental monitoring began, says a Suez information booklet.

The centre covers a half section, 320 acres, with 80 acres fenced off, says a Suez information booklet.

On September 17, the Swan Hills treatment centre hosted an open house from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The upper grades from Swan Hills School, and various community members attended.

The event had stations like a science fair.

Workers at these booths explained the workings of different parts of the plant. One demonstration was of a laser aligners on engines that run conveyor belts and other equipment.

Safety, industrial fire fighters, welders, mechanics, shipping and receiving personal, lab, environmental workers etc. all demonstrated their job.

For the first year, there was also a guided tour in a van around the plant buildings, landfill piles and incinerator.

Toxic waste includes paint and oil, among others, says an information booklet. The plant only accepts waste that the chemical properties are known. There are various safety measures and documentation in place for all aspects from movement, treatment, and ultimate disposal.

The centre is set up to be able to process, 45,000 tonnes of waste per year, an information booklet says. These are done through incineration and physical or chemical disposal.

Organic wastes in solid, liquid or sludge form is destroyed in the incinerator, which has temperatures up to 1,200 degrees Celsius. The smoke isn’t released right away into the atmosphere, instead it is trapped and treated to remove harmful chemicals.

Waste which cannot be burnt safely are chemically treated to become stable and safe and are stored in a landfill or deep well.

On the tour of the site, the landfills looked a bit like large Viking burial mounds. They are long low hills covered in grass.

The tour guide in the van explained the workings of the plant. The current pit that is being filled, is the one in use when he started, 12 years ago.

The waste underneath is sealed and the runoff water is tested and treated if need be, said the tour guide.

The deep well is less visible and is several thousand feet deep.

There are various types of environmental precautions in place, said environmental workers at the open house. All of the water used on the plant either comes from collected rainwater for the processing or on site wells for drinking water. Water is stored in various pools on site, which are tested often.

No water leaves the site without meeting environmental standards, said an environmental worker.

Environmental scientists on site do tests throughout the site and off site, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually depending on the test, says an information brochure. These include tests of water and emissions tests on the incinerator.

Scientists who do not work for the plant have also done studies looking at soil, plants, water, birds, fish and voles, says an information brochure. Lakes around the plant are also monitored for toxicity by checking fish.

The Lesser Slave Watershed Council test Swan River for metals. Keepers of the Athabasca are also testing water near the plant.

Swan Hills Treatment Centre. The shorter stack on the left is an emergency release for the kiln. The tall yellow stack is the main stack for the Swan Hills Treatment Plant. Hazardous waste goes through many steps before some of the treated material is burned at high heat and the smoke is released in the stack. Some of the waste is treated and stored in landfills or deep mines on site.
The north pond, storage and the kiln in the background. Swan Hills plant collects rain water from across the site and uses it, filters it and reuses it in the process.
Cody Odland, pipefitter, demonstrates the various types of pipes and the cycle that fluid takes in the Swan Hills Treatment Plant at the open house on Sept. 17.
A mannequin sporting safety equipment.

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