Canfor Pulp's bid to build a water treatment plant and decanting pond on the north shore of the Nechako River won city council's approval on Monday night, when a rezoning bylaw to allow the project to go ahead passed third reading following a public hearing.
Slated for the same plot of land on PG Pulpmill Road where a pump house is in place and just east of a groundwater well owned by Canfor Pulp, it will separate silt from water extracted from the river and discharge it into the pond.
The fresh water, in turn, would be sent along to the company's pulp mills as well as the Husky refinery, Canfor Pulp production manager Jason Korolek told council during a presentation.
"Every spring we deal with a massive amount of spring runoff and if you can imagine what silty, dirty water does with pumps, equipment, fire systems, it's very detrimental for our company," Korolek said.
"And we've been dealing with this water as a company for the last 50 years and it's time we make a change and become more environmentally friendly. It'll drive energy costs down and of course we need to be profitable to stay in business."
Some "minor clean water" will go back into the river.
The proposal drew some concern from nearby property owners, particularly in regard to the look from the road. Although a berm will be installed and trees planted, questions were raised about how long they will stay in place and be in good condition.
The six-hectare plot must be rezoned to major utilities to allow the project. Most of it is currently zoned minor utilities but a one-hectare strip along the road is zoned greenbelt and another 1.1 hectares is zoned rural residential.
That raised a question in one property owner's mind that although trees will be planted along the greenbelt, the new zone will still allow Canfor to use that portion for major utilities. Brian Hedburg said a restrictive covenant should be put in place to prevent the possibility.
Staff had recommended no covenant is needed, and council maintained that position after hearing the city's unsightly premises bylaw could be used to prevent to problem. The landscaping will also help keep out trespassers, Korolek had said.
Korolek said customers now demand the pulp industry meet the environmental goal of using less water and discharge less into the river.
"We can't do that if we're feeding our equipment full of mud and water," Korolek said.
There will also be a "fairly significant" reduction in the amount of bleaching chemicals the mills use because the water will be cleaner, he added.
"And of course, that brings increased quality," Korolek said. "We'll be supplying, at the end, a superior product because we don't have all this dirt that we're shipping off to some of our customers during the spring runoff period."
The pond will be located above the 200-year flood plain, council was told.
Because he works for Canfor Pulp, Coun. Brian Skakun excused himself from the item.