The ongoing renewal project is expected to be complete by the end of 2025 and operational in early 2026.

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BUFFALO POUND — Rows on rows of new solar panels will soon come online at the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant after an unveiling this week of new elements included in a major revamp at the facility.

With the $4-million solar project now completed, the panels line the entrance into the treatment plant near Moose Jaw and are expected to be operational by the end of this month.

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Board member Patricia Warsaba, who spoke at an unveiling Tuesday, called the addition a “very exciting” and “important step taken by the corporation in reducing its carbon footprint.”

“While this represents a small portion of the energy consumed by the plant, it is a significant step and we anticipate that it will lead to an expansion into additional green energy projects in future,” said Warsaba, flanked by Moose Jaw Mayor Clive Tolley and Regina Mayor Sandra Masters, whose cities share joint ownership of the Buffalo Pound plant.

“This is an important thing that we continue to work towards in terms of using alternative energy sources to save money and to reduce emissions,” Masters said.

The panels are expected to produce 1,800 kilowatts of electricity, which will circulate on a self-contained grid.

President and CEO Ryan Johnson said the wattage is the equivalent of around 400 homes and approximately 10 per cent of the plant’s total annual electricity usage — about what’s expected from the plant’s new administrative building, which is also part of the renewal.

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“We wanted it to be a green building, so the intent was to at least produce enough power to cover that,” Johnson during a tour on Tuesday.

Newly installed solar panels line the main road into the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Leader-Post

It’s anticipated that Buffalo Pound will recoup the cost of the solar install in 15 years through mitigated power costs.

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Adding solar generation is just one of several elements in a major restoration project that began in 2022 and has surpassed 50-per-cent completion.

Crews have been working to expand and deepen lagoons, upgrade pumps and add new clarification, filtration and treatment systems over the last two years. Some new technologies are already being phased in, like a switch to dissolve air flotation as a clarification process.

Much of the work is to add operational capacity and stability, as well as more contingency room to help continue delivery in the event that some systems go offline.

Johnson said the upgrades will extend the life of the plant another 25 to 30 years.

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“If something goes wrong we have to fix and we’re maybe not producing water, in the new plant we can bypass whatever’s wrong,” Johnson said. “These are the things that help us sleep at night.”

Water service has continued as usual throughout the project, with minimal disruptions as crews work to retrofit infrastructure. Johnson said the old systems, some installed in the 1960s, were more “fragile” than expected.

“We have been cautious in how we do things,” he added.

A bright yellow tower crane still looms over the facility, but Johnson anticipates it will be gone by the end of 2025 as construction finishes. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is expected in spring 2026.

A large crane looms over the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant amid a $325 million renewal project. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Leader-Post

For Regina, future work past that target will include adding fluoride, as approved by council in 2021, and orthophosphate to mitigate lead exposure from pipes or service connections.

Buffalo Pound is also collaborating with a researcher at the University of Regina to find a marketable use for the 7,500 tonnes of sludge byproduct produced during the clarification process.

The sludge is currently disposed in the Moose Jaw landfill at a cost of about $1 million per year, but research is looking at turning it into a ceramic-like product that can be reused and made into fertilizer. If successful, Johnson said it could flip from an expense to a “significant” business line for the plant.

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Buffalo Pound was built in 1955, last upgraded on this scale in the 1980s. Total cost for the current project is $325 million, funded jointly by the federal, provincial and two municipal governments.

The City of Regina has agreed to commit up to $100.7 million.

President and CEO Ryan Johnson of the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant provides a tour of the ongoing construction project on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Leader-Post
Crews work to update the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Leader-Post
New pumps that will replace augers wait to come online at the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Leader-Post
Crews work on converting clarifiers at the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Leader-Post

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