02/28/2013 01:57 EST

Calgary Sewage Lagoons Overflowing As Population Grows


As Calgary's population continues to climb there's not just a growing number of people -- there's also a growing amount of human waste plaguing the sewage system.

Calgary's Shepard sludge lagoons are facing a tipping point; they're quickly reaching overflow, says Water Services.

According to Fast Forward weekly, in the past the city has turned treated waste into fertilizer packed with nutrients, recycling the city's "biosolids" and injecings them into local farmers' fields as fertilizer.

Natasha Harckham, Calgro program specialist, said the amount of biosolid that can be spread on farm land depends on soil content regulations and weather, and varies from year to year.

However, the city has 20 hectares of lagoons to hold 743,000 cubic metres of waste, but Calgary is producing over that limit -- close to 900,000 cubic feet, or approximately 9,500 tanker truckloads.

“If we dig deeper lagoons or build more lagoons, all we would really be doing is building space for more accumulation and creating a larger stockpile. What the city would prefer to do is develop a more resilient and sustainable biosolids management plan,” Harckham said.

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“We are very close to capacity for biosolids and we’re running out of room. We’re a growing city,” Ald. Brian Pincott told the Calgary Herald.

Pincott has some suggestions for dealing with the overflow, including new partnerships within city services.

”One of our solutions is our composting facility and looking how we partner. It’s about efficiency and cost savings,” Pincott said.

“The environmental liabilities of having organics in the landfill are astounding.”

Harckham agrees that composting would be the first-choice use for the leftover waste. However, there are other options. First outlined in 2011, when the city put out it's Organic Materials and Biosolids Master Plan, those uses include fertilizer for turf farms, in forestry, soil reclamation or in landfills.