Whistler Resort, located in British Columbia, Canada, was the alpine host for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics. And while athletes around the world were training, long-planned upgrades to the Whistler Resort wastewater treatment plant were underway to ensure completion in time for the games, which brought thousands of athletes, spectators, and media to the town. Whistler housed more than 6,000 athletes, coaches, trainers, officials, and media at its new Athletes Village which, post games, was turned into a neighborhood, providing 250 residences, recreational facilities, and retail services. Because hosting the Winter Olympics is nothing to take lightly, the town of Whistler knew it couldn’t skimp on its wastewater system.
Like other wastewater treatment plants, Whistler Resort Municipality reviewed the need for upgrades as the community grew. Whistler’s current permanent population is 10,000 with 2 million visitors annually. Plus, an additional seasonal workforce commutes into Whistler on a daily basis from neighboring communities. Old wastewater treatment equipment increasingly required maintenance making upgrades inevitable. Combined with the anticipated influx of thousands of Olympic guests and the increase of permanent residents at the Athletes Village following the games, a project to upgrade the waste management system was initiated well in advance to allow timely completion, testing, and start-up in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
“From an operational standpoint, we wanted a robust, serviceable system with good support behind it,” explained Andrew Tucker, Whistler’s wastewater treatment plant supervisor. Whistler selected JWC’s Monster Separation System, which consists of two Finescreen Monsters and two Screenings Washer Monsters (SWMs) installed at the headworks. The first system went online in December 2008 with the second following in March 2009. The Monster Separation System provides a high capture rate of unwanted wastewater debris and efficient washing and compacting, resulting in a discharge that is clean and ready for disposal.
Prior to the upgrade, the separation technology included a coarse screen that removed not only debris, but also fecal matter and biosolids, resulting in more organic material going into the landfill, which in turn caused a highly unpleasant odor.
“The whole idea behind JWC’s fine screen and the Screenings Washer Monsters is that it separates the rags and plastics out so that they can go to the landfill, but returns the soft organic materials to the process where it can be properly treated,” said Elaine Connors of Jelcon Equipment, Ltd. “With the JWC system, Whistler gets a cleaner system by using the finer screen and a dryer, cleaner separation of what goes to the landfill.”
The Finescreen Monster incorporates a continuous band of stainless steel perforated panels attached to heavy-duty stainless steel roller chains. Each panel has 1/4-inch circular openings. According to JWC, the perforated plate design is superior to bar screens because the Finescreen will capture more small solids, such as cigarette butts, latex, plastics, and rags. Debris is lifted to deck level and dropped into the SWM. The stainless steel rollers then track in ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene guides at the bottom of the screen.
It is the SWM’s function to provide additional washing, dewatering, and compacting. The SWM is a self-contained hopper-fed system that grinds, washes, compacts, and dewaters screenings captured by the Finescreen. The discharged solids contain up to 50 percent dry solids and the volume of material is compacted down by 80 percent to 90 percent. The process of grinding prior to solids separation removes virtually all soft organics from the discharge, which reduces odors and landfill costs.
“The bigger pieces get caught and separated on the screen, and are discharged on the back into the chute,” Tucker said. “These pieces then go through the grinder and continue to the compactor. The compactor allows any organics to percolate back into the channel, and then the clean solids continue through the compactor and are discharged to a bin that is removed for landfill disposal.
“The biggest advantage of the new system is the cleaner waste,” he added. “Odors are reduced because organics are being put back into the channel. And the way the system compacts, we put out less volume, and of course the organics are not present. The odor is definitely improved.”
In addition to a cleaner system, Whistler operators gain a side benefit. With the old system, operators had to rake the screens down to keep the hopper clear. With the new system, they no longer have this unpleasant task.
The final part of the upgrade was installation of JWC’s Mini Monster into the fermenter and a Muffin Monster for septage receiving. Both grinders provide added protection to prevent solids from causing damage to downstream pumps and systems.
It all starts with a flush…
When news of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games first came to Whistler, the town’s community vision and sustainability plan for 2020 was set into motion much faster than originally planned. This incentive led to the development of a new, state-of-the-art, waste management system, including a $51.5 million upgrade to Whistler’s wastewater treatment plant, making it one of the most advanced systems in Canada.
Keeping sustainability in mind, workers began construction on the wastewater treatment plant in August 2008, eliminating the need for chemicals through the use of microbes and reducing reliance on chemicals such as chlorine by using ultraviolet disinfection.
Once the water is treated, the magic begins. The inherent temperature of the treated water is used as an energy source for controlling the temperature in the operations building and heating the water that’s pumped into the District Energy System (DES) for the Athletes Village.
“This is an innovative alternative energy system that effectively leverages all of the showers, toilets, and hot water going into the sewers in Whistler,” said Ted Battiston, Whistler Center for Sustainability’s energy and emissions manager.
To do so, the system extracts low-temperature ambient heat from the treated wastewater effluent, enabling both heating and cooling for about 2,200 people in 85,000 square meters of space.
Because the DES is so cutting edge, it earned the 2009 Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators Environmental Award in addition to the 2008 Community Energy Associations’ Energy Action Award for Community Planning and Development. Its benefits include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent compared with standard baseboard electric heating, and 95 percent compared with natural gas for space and water heating. Plus, financial feasibility assessments have determined that the project will save money in the long run. And this is only the beginning. According to the Resort Municipality of Whistler website, this project “is the first innovative step in the larger aspiration to develop a renewable energy (ground source heat pump-based) district energy system for the entire Whistler Village core.”
In addition to the sustainable aspects apparent in the DES as part of Whistler’s wastewater treatment plant, its new composting facility helps make better use of the waste obtained through the process. The plant composts a combination of biosolids from the wastewater treatment facility and wood chips, plus commercial and residential food waste diverted from the wastewater treatment plant. The composting facility currently handles around 50 tons of material per day, five days a week, with the potential to keep more than 5,000 tons of organic material out of landfills annually.
Cynthia Guardia is the president of Cia Communications, Inc. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.