Sewage Lagoon Update

By Tasha

Sewage Lagoon Update


We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: we do give a crap about the smell of our sewage lagoon here in Elkford, and we know you do too. 💩

We’ve noticed an uptick in inquiries about how our lagoon smells lately. Let’s explore why!

What is sewage? Sewage is a type of wastewater produced by a community of people. Among other fun organic things, it contains human fecal matter and urine, food waste and toilet paper. It also predictably contains items that people are prohibited from flushing like diapers, cat litter, tampons, condoms, expired medications, paint, solvent and more. Unpleasant stuff, right? Well, yes—and we’re sorry to break this to you: because they are literally giant vats of liquefied feces, no sewage lagoon will ever smell like roses all the time.

A combination of factors influences the smell of a sewage lagoon, including temperature fluctuations, changes in the balances of chemicals and organic matter (i.e., chlorine being dumped straight from a hot tub or swimming pool), nutrients and flowrates. Temperature fluctuations come into play when the lagoon undergoes its annual flop: drastic changes in outdoor temperatures cause the sewage to change in gradation from top to bottom, impacting (and worsening) odour.  Of course, extreme heat waves or extended periods of hot weather will make smells worse too—and we have noted that complaints typically increase as weather warms.

This is especially true during summer. For reasons we just explained, you now understand that seasonal heatwaves can worsen the odour emanating from any community’s sewage lagoon, and folks living in closer geographic proximity to a lagoon (where there’s a higher concentration of odour particles) will inevitably have a higher chance of smelling it. Elkford’s sewage lagoon has been at its existing location since 1982. It was constructed at the same time as the subdivision directly above, not placed into an existing neighbourhood, and it used to have some extra trees bordering it.

Why are we bringing up the trees? Because there is a misconception that these trees, which were removed as part of a joint winter highway safety project between the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) and Canfor, were “preventing the smell” from reaching town. According to the lagoon specialists that we consulted, there is unlikely to be any discernible correlation between these things.

As part of the MOTI project, tree removal was performed by Canfor to improve the amount of sunlight that reached the curves leaving Elkford on Highway 43. This project was not a District of Elkford initiative, but we’d like to help clarify some things about this. Whereas it’s true that tree removal CAN help reduce ice formation on a slippery corner (by increasing the amount of sun exposure and therefore the temperature of the asphalt and causing road salt to activate sooner), it’s a misconception that a grove of trees was acting like an impenetrable wall and preventing millions of minuscule odorant particles from reaching town.

In 2021, because of concerns expressed about the smell from the sewage lagoon, the District of Elkford enlisted a consulting firm specializing in lagoons to address this. With their guidance, some minor adjustments were made to the operation that were anticipated to help reduce odour and improve the general health of the lagoon. The lagoon specialists who were consulted also confirmed that the presence (or absence) of trees on the corner should not impact the smell of our lagoon.

To improve general lagoon health and smell, the recommendations made during the lagoon specialists’ review of Elkford’s lagoon system are being incorporated and will continue over the coming years. Work to remove clay in the base of Cell #5 is budgeted for next year. Aerator repair (or eventual replacement) will be budgeted for as well, as the current system is now showing signs of wear, which contributes to the smell.

In summary, no matter where you live, your local sewage lagoon(s) will smell less than… stellar at some points throughout the year. In Elkford, this is something that we endeavour to continually improve upon for our community.

Questions about sewage lagoons or poop? Contact Public Works directly at 250.865.4025 or

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