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Why Does It Smell On the Alex Fraser Bridge?

alex fraser bridge lane closures

Ever wonder why the drive along the Alex Fraser Bridge comes with a strange smell that can’t be placed?

As a major cable-stayed span bridge and Vancouver landmark that connects Richmond and New Westminster with North Delta, the Alex Fraser Bridge carries Highway 91 across the Fraser River. Since 2003, traffic volume has been growing at an annual average percentage of 1.4 per cent, according to the Ministry of Transportation Traffic Data Program: Annual Volume Reports (2003-2014).

There are more than 100,000 vehicle trips daily made across the Alex Fraser Bridge and its commuters are more than familiar with the horrible smell that plagues their daily commute.

Annacis Island is an industrial island connected to Delta via the Alex Fraser Bridge. It also contains one of Metro Vancouver’s secondary wastewater treatment plants. That’s correct, the smell isn’t coming from manure or garbage but friends and family in the Lower Mainland.

The Annacis Island Wastewater Treatment Plant is a secondary treatment plant that processes 175 billion litres of wastewater every year for over 1 million residents in 14 municipalities. Once it’s treated, the wastewater is discharged into the Fraser River.

Secondary wastewater treatment is an additional step that happens after primary treatment to remove about 95 per cent of organic materials found in wastewater such as suspended solids and dissolved organic materials.

Secondary treatment protects and maintains healthy waterways so that pollutants don’t flow directly into rivers and oceans. This takes place on Annacis Island, which explains the pungent aromas that commuters experience on the Alex Fraser Bridge.

The Annacis Island Wastewater Treatment Plant is currently undergoing a $550 million upgrade. It aims to serve 250,000 additional residents of Metro Vancouver. You can expect the smell to get worse before it gets better.


Image via ogcodes / Flickr

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