City wants more info on wastewater plant

Encanex wants to treat wastewater from offshore drilling at a plant in St. John's harbour, but city council wants to know more before supporting the project.
This spot below the Battery is where the proposed wastewater treatment facility would be located. (CBC)

St. John's city council says it won't support a proposal for an industrial site on the waterfront until it gets a lot more information.

A company called Encanex wants to treat wastewater from offshore drilling operations on land owned by the port authority, below the Battery on Signal Hill.

Coun. Sheilagh O'Leary says it's the wrong place for such an operation.

O'Leary suggested putting such a facility closer to the oil refinery in Come By Chance, about 150 kilometres west of St. John's. 

Encanex, however, says the treatment equipment won't obstruct views of the harbour. The company also claims the process is safe and won't create any extra noise or smell.

"It's not hazardous water," said Alton Payne, the company's president. "That's a different process. Anything that's hazardous would be handled in a different way. It would not be handled here."

Payne says the water left over after the impurities are removed will be clean enough to release into the city's storm sewers.

"The provincial government has different criteria as to what can be discharged into the municipal sewer system, and the water will meet those requirements," he said. "It'll have virtually no oil or solids or contaminants that are restricted from being discharged."

Some councillors, though, oppose that idea, at least until council learns a lot more about the proposal.

"Before anything is done we would have to have an application on file, says Coun. Tom Hann. "It would go through the normal process with our staff."

But since it's the port authority that controls the land, it could approve the plant despite the city's objections.

Offshore wastewater is already being offloaded in St. John's, where it's trucked through the city and processed away from the harbour.

The province is inviting public comments on the Encanex proposal until Dec. 7, and will make its decision by Dec. 16.

Payne says if it's approved, the operation could be up and running within weeks.