Champlain Township has reimbursed Beau’s All-Natural Brewing Company $112,700 for what the mayor says are three years of overcharging for wastewater treatment.

The reimbursement decision took place in a closed meeting but on Monday, August 17, Champlain Township Mayor Normand Riopel said that the township has been accepting what is called “high-strength sewage” from Beau’s and that it was charging extra for accepting it at the Vankleek Hill wastewater treatment facility.

The extra amount to charge Beau’s for treating this “high-strength sewage” had been calculated by the town’s engineers at the time, but that price has now been determined to have been too high.

The quality of the waste output at the local craft brewery is sampled once or twice per week, according to the mayor and the town’s treatment system, which includes a treatment facility and a six-cell lagoon system, which is equipped to accept this sewage, and which differs from domestic household sewage in that it contains a different mix of materials.

Riopel said that accepting the waste from Beau’s does not affect the output of the lagoons. A few times each year (in spring and fall), after residual waste in treated wastewater has been further broken down in the lagoon system (liquids are transferred from cell to cell), the contents of the fourth and final treatment cell are released into the Little Rideau Creek, which ultimately flows into the Ottawa River.

“I’m incredibly grateful to Mayor Riopel and town councillors for listening to our request for a review of the charges being placed on us and glad to learn that the town has, in fact, been overcharging the brewery.  Having spent approximately $1 million on our waste treatment system and related expenses over the last four years, this comes as a very welcome relief to our business,” said Steve Beauchesne, speaking on behalf of Beau’s.

At an October 2019 meeting, Public Works Director James McMahon told council that the wastewater treatment plant was in compliance.

McMahon explained to council that when the plant was upgraded, it was built to withstand more capacity (volume).

In October 2019, The Review reported that Champlain Township was concerned about the variable quality of wastewater it was discharging into the Vankleek Hill lagoon system.

At the time, without naming any company, council said that “high-strength” wastewater being accepted at the Vankleek Hill wastewater treatment plant required a different type of treatment than the Vankleek Hill plan could provide. That wastewater was being released into the lagoon system, and was affecting the biological processes in the cells that was supposed to take place before liquid was released from the final treatment cell into the Little Rideau Creek. At that time, council was concerned that the township could face fines.

A confidential report on the matter was distributed to councillors at the October 2, 2019 committee of the whole meeting.

In the draft minutes of that committee of the whole meeting, it is stated that, “the township has been working with the local company to find a solution to reduce the high-strength discharge from its production facility. The company in question has invested a lot of time and money into an in-house pre-treatment system; however it has not yielded the desired results. Everyone is working together to find a solution to protect the infrastructure and ensure that there is no impact on the effectiveness of the treatment process and that the Township remains in compliance with the seasonal Lagoon discharge effluent limits outlined by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks. Moving forward, the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA) will continue to take weekly samples from the company’s production facility in order to monitor and ensure that their discharge is being fully treated and is in compliance with the by-law prior to being released into the municipality’s waste water collection system.”

Like the town’s drinking-water system, the wastewater treatment system is supervised by the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA).

Councillor Sarah Bigelow noted at the October 2019 meeting that the municipality’s discharge did not meet provincial requirements in 2017-2018, but it was within the limits for 10 weeks in 2019.