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History of Calgary wastewater treatment

Learn more about the history of Calgary's wastewater treatment which is one part of Calgary's water, wastewater and stormwater system.

1890 – A new wastewater system

In the 1800s, waste water flowed into the Bow and Elbow Rivers. It was common to throw the water out the door or window.

In 1887 Robert Lamont was appointed Town Scavenger. He collected "night soil" which was an old term used to describe poop. This was the first effort to remove waste water.

In 1890, Calgary passed bylaw number 127, allowing the town to borrow $21,000 to build a new system. The bylaw was passed by 146 votes for to 37 votes against.

1910 – A bigger wastewater system

By 1912, Calgary reached 50,000 people and the system was full. To meet growth, the City bought its first trenching machine for $4,988.

When the Canadian Pacific Railway gave the western repair facilities to Calgary and built the Ogden yards, demand for a better system grew even more.

The Ogden yards not only added waste volume but travel distance. In those days, Calgary was a bunch of small buildings in the downtown area. The City needed a major sewer line to move waste, which was approved in Bylaw number 1593.

The City borrowed $63,000 to build a 24-inch sewer line; however, it was not to be built for many years to come.

1918 - Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment plant

In 1918, The City approved $350,000 to build the Bonnybrook Plant. It was not built right away as Calgary had other needs due to a lot of growth.

Once the plant was built, it treated up to 72,7000 cubic metres a day.

1927 - Building the storm sewer system

Floods have always been a problem on the Bow and Elbow Rivers. As Calgary grew, floods in 1923, 1926, 1929 and 1932 showed the need for storm sewers as the sewer system could not handle stormwater from rain storms.

In 1927, Calgary approved $127,000 for storm sewers. The City built storm sewers up to Silver Springs to control underground waters that were causing land slipping issues between Centre Street and 8 Street NW.

The Bonnybrook Plant could only handle waste water from Calgary's south side. North of the Bow River, people dumped sewage into the river.

In 1940, waste water from north Calgary was tied into the plant. The City did this by adding a six foot diameter pipe 60 feet under the Bow River.

1954 - Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion

The Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant grew between 1954 and 1958 to treat 213,600 cubic metres a day.

Although the sewer system was working by 1956, there were still outhouses. We used special trucks to collect and haul waste to the plant. In 1961, the last truck, known as a Honey Wagon, was retired.

1960 - Fish Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant

In 1959, work began on the Fish Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. This plant is located where the Bow River and Fish Creek meet.

The City built the plant in 1960. It treated 18,200 cubic metres a day. It grew to 34,600 cubic metres a day in 1968.

1971 - A new era in wastewater treatment

In 1971, the plants added secondary treatment, a process that removes more organics from waste water.

The Bonnybrook plant could now treat 236,000 cubic metres a day. These upgrades lowered waste water in the Bow River helping create good water quality.

1980 - Wastewater plant upgrades

In 1980, the Fish Creek plant added secondary treatment and grew to treat 72,700 cubic metres a day.

Two years later, both plants added tertiary treatment, which removes chemical phosphorus. This helps reduce weed growth in our rivers (plants use this chemical to grow).

Between 1982 and 1985, the Bonnybrook plant grew to treat 450,000 cubic metres a day.

Between 1992 and 1994, Bonnybrook grew to 500,000 cubic metres a day to meet water demand and new waste water standards.

The plant also added state of the art technology for sludge, nitrogen and phosphorus.

1996 - UV disinfection

In 1996, the Fish Creek plant added ultra-violet light disinfection. This technology was also been added at the Bonnybrook and Pine Creek plants.