A ban on out-of-city poop in Abbotsford is affecting septic trucks in Chilliwack
Monday, June 7, 2021
Good Morning!
We are now a full week into June, which means we are also 1 week into Indigenous History Month. This month is particularly poignant this year, with many people now looking into the history of residential schools. That is good, but there is more history out there, especially in the Fraser Valley. I’ve been reading Chad Reimer’s Before We Lost The Lake, on the history of Sumas Lake, Indigenous people, and colonization. The Stó:lō Coast Salish Historical Atlas, available through the Fraser Valley Regional Library, is another highly recommended resource. The Stó:lō Gift Shop has a wide selection of local Indigenous books, and this list has suggestions for those interested in Canada-wide history. —Grace Kennedy, reporter
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Trucks carrying liquid waste are facing hurdles when it comes to dumping their load locally. • 📸 Salivanchuk Semen/Shutterstock
When Chilliwack's septic truck problem met Abbotsford's septic truck problem

You would think the contents of your toilet, of all things, wouldn’t matter to anyone else. You would be wrong. As both Chilliwack and Abbotsford have discovered this year, sewage problems in one community have a tendency to trickle down to others.

Wastewater treatment plants, as many know, are responsible for converting sewage into water that can be safely discharged into local streams. However, the plants also take in liquid waste brought in by trucks from residential and industrial properties: the famed "honeywagons" that clean out septic tanks are one example of these, but haulers also carry grease from restaurants, the contents of parking lot catch basins, chemicals from photo processors, and solvents from dry cleaners.

In Chilliwack, the trucks deliver the waste to a receiving facility, part of the plant’s inlet works system that screens incoming wastewater. From the inlet works, the trucked waste is pumped into primary clarifiers—essentially large tanks which allow solids to settle and the remaining liquid to be moved through the rest of the plant. Last year, the City of Chilliwack discovered hydrogen sulphide gas had corroded those clarifiers, damaging the structural concrete, steel weirs, and the structural steel beams.

Repairs were needed. But construction on a separate project was already underway to expand the plant’s inlet works. The hope was the clarifiers could be fixed once the expansion was finished: although the clarifier repairs would periodically take the trucked liquid waste facility out of commission, having the inlet works finished would make those disruptions less frequent. In the meantime, Abbotsford staff had said they would accept waste from current account holders coming from Chilliwack while the facility was closed.

Meanwhile, Abbotsford has also been dealing with its own waste issues. The city’s joint wastewater treatment plant with Mission has seen significant increases in the amount of waste coming to the facility: the amount of trucked liquid waste tripled between 2014 and 2020. Some of the waste was also higher in concentration, which could have negative impacts on the plant’s infrastructure. Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said he expects the plant will need to undergo upgrades in the not too distant future to ensure there’s enough capacity for local sludge.

These concerns led Abbotsford and Mission to agree to ban all trucked liquid waste coming from outside of those municipalities. In mid-May, a letter went out to liquid waste haulers: starting June 1, any waste coming from beyond Abbotsford and Mission would no longer be accepted at the JAMES Wastewater Treatment Plant.

When Chilliwack learned of the truck ban, it developed an alternate plan for their own haulers while the Chilliwack facility was closed. The next nearest place to get rid of liquid waste is the Northwest Langley Wastewater Treatment Plant, 65km away. Instead of demanding all trucks take the hour-long drive to Langley, the city created a trucked liquid waste disposal facility on Kerr Avenue, near the Molson Coors Brewery. There, trucks could bring waste from local houses and pump it directly into Chilliwack’s sewage system. It wouldn't be a long-term solution. The site will have limited hours and haulers will need to weigh their loads 5km away before heading to pump the waste on an active industrial street.

Pumping liquid waste directly into the system also poses a major risk to Chilliwack’s sewer infrastructure. Trucked liquid waste is not, as it sounds, just liquid. The trucks can also contain large amounts of rags or other solid waste—particularly trucks coming from outside the city, staff said—which can cause blockages in the pipes. Staff plan to flush the system downstream from Kerr Avenue weekly to reduce the risk of damage, but say it can’t be sustained for long.

But all those workarounds may no longer be necessary.

The city has sent an official request to Abbotsford, asking them to exempt Chilliwack from the ban while their plant is under construction. The letter will be coming forward for discussion at the Abbotsford council meeting on June 14, so council can discuss an official exemption for Chilliwack. In the meantime, Braun told the Current Friday that Chilliwack's trucks will be accepted at the plant anyway.

"They’re our neighbours and we help our neighbours out," he said. "That’s just what good neighbours do."

— By Grace Kennedy
Need to Know
🟠 Hundreds came together to honour residential school victims with Indigenous ceremonies at the site of the St. Mary's residential school in Mission  [Mission City Record]

💔 A woman died after she was hit by a vehicle in Abbotsford Friday night [Abbotsford News]

🎒 Homicide investigators looking into Trina Hunt's death were seen at homes in Port Moody and Mission Saturday [CTV]

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A large apartment building is proposed for McCallum Road in central Abbotsford. 📸 City of Abbotsford
The Agenda
Developer John Jurinak hopes to build a 6-storey, 174-unit building along McCallum Road in Central Abbotsford. A small 10-unit townhome project is also proposed. A "minor" amendment to the Official Community Plan is needed to allow the majority of the property, at 2236 McCallum, to be used for the building. Of the apartment buildings, 90 would be 1-bedroom units, 73 would have 2 bedrooms, and 11 would be studio units. Council gave preliminary approval last week, sending the proposal to a future public hearing.


The developers behind District 1881 are hoping council will approve changes to the zoning bylaw that will allow for new businesses to take root at Five Corners. The Algra Bros has requested an amendment that would allow for boarding houses, tourist accommodations, neighbourhood pubs, night clubs, and specialized craft manufacturing to set up shop in the downtown Chilliwack development. The developer is also asking the city to allow retail sales in home-based businesses in townhouses or duplexes on site, as the homes may be attached to commercial buildings. Parking variances are also included in the request.

The Floor Is Yours: What types of businesses do you want to see in downtown Chilliwack?

COVID latest
New vaccine clinics aim to remove barriers in the Fraser Valley. Some clinics are being administered in collaboration with places of worship: the first of these got underway at the Abbotsford Islamic Centre this past weekend. The next one is taking place on Tuesday, June 8 at the Mission Sikh Temple between 10am and 3:30pm. Only those with appointments will be able to receive the vaccinedetails on how to book are available online. Other clinics aims to reduce barriers by allowing drop-in vaccinations. The next one of these is happening at Boston Bar Elementary Secondary School (47632 Old Boston Bar Road) between 10am and 3:30pm on Friday, June 11. [BCCDC COVID data]

Fraser Health
  • New cases: 101 Friday / 117 average (down 35% from last week)
  • No active outbreaks at hospitals / 2 active outbreaks in long-term care
  • School exposures: Abbotsford: 8 / Chilliwack: 3 / Langley: 4 / Mission: 1 / Fraser Cascade: 0
  • Workplace closures (June 2): 2
  • New cases: 183 Friday /  210 average (down 34% from last week)
  • 224 hospitalizations (down 23% from last week)
  • 1 new death / 1,710 total
Around Town
🌲 The Chilliwack River Valley Heartwood Learning Community is accepting registrations for September. The program is free for families and they aren’t locked in.
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Circle Back
Missed a previous newsletter? Catch up on what you may have missed.
  • In a famously car-dependent region, electric vehicles are on the rise [June 4]
  • A local study aims to see if group fitness can really help moms struggling through the pandemic [June 3]
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