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The Moncton Sewerage Commission hopes to start construction on a secondary treatment plant next year.

The Greater Moncton Sewerage Commission is taking steps to clean up the Petitcodiac River.

As it stands, wastewater effluent pumped into the Petitcodiac River undergoes only primary treatment — a process the involves removing solids that float or sink.

But the commission is taking steps to comply with the federal standards of secondary treatment by 2020, which would see dissolved organic material also removed.

The plan is to have construction start on a secondary treatment plant next year, and be in operation by 2018, said commission chairman Winston Pearce.

The wastewater treatment facility upgrade is estimated to cost $60 million, which may be covered by the city, or could include assistance from the provincial and federal governments, or a public-private partnership, he said.

Pearce says it's important to get the work done because the Petitcodiac is already drawing international surfers to ride the tidal bore.

"It didn't give me a great deal of satisfaction to see it, but that's OK, they're doing it. We're trying to fix the problem and we have made changes," he said. "We shut the plant down for a few hours when this is happening, just before the tide comes in, we shut it down and there are fewer problems."

The commission is looking to do ultraviolet treatment, said Pearce.

"What it does is it produces more of the solids, which we take out to the compost plant and we're going to probably produce 25 per cent more compost than we've been producing up to now," he said.

"Believe it or not, the compost plant produces about as much compost as it would take to fill a 100-car train" in a year.