COLUMN: Carillon Flashback, March 23, 1994 – Beatrice funds third of Grunthal sewer project

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A $1.5 million upgrading of Grunthal’s sewage disposal facilities will not cost the community a cent, as food giant Beatrice Foods has offered to pick up the municipality’s share of the funding by three levels of government under an Agreement on Municipal Waste Infrastructure, signed earlier this week.

The agreement, involving the RM of Hanover as well as the provincial and federal governments, was signed by Provencher MP David Iftody, on behalf of Federal Agriculture Minister Ralph Goodale; by Manitoba Natural Resources Minister Albert Driedger on behalf of Rural Development Minister Len Derkach; and by RM of Hanover Reeve Aron Friesen.

Friesen said the agreement was special for his council and the people of Grunthal because of what it meant for the cheese plant and its 30 employees.

CARILLON ARCHIVES Manitoba Natural Resources Minister Albert Driedger, Provencher MP David Iftody and Hanover Reeve Aron Friesen discuss the Canada/Manitoba Infrastructure program at a meeting.

“It is one thing to get new industry, but far more important to keep the industry you already have. If we had missed out on this Municipal Waste Infrastructure Agreement, we would have missed the boat.”

The agreement will see the amalgamation of the village’s sewage treatment with the industrial waste water from the Medo-Land cheese plant, owned by Beatrice Foods.

Driedger told those attending the signing ceremonies at the Grunthal fire hall that it was a great way to spend the first day of the week, and the first day of spring.

The MLA said he had been working hard to see this type of sewage expansion project go ahead, since the environment department had expressed concerns to the owners of the Grunthal plant two years ago. The project will address both environmental concerns and village concerns, he said.

“We have been looking at options, ever since people began talking about Beatrice combining its Grunthal and St Claude operations, which would have meant the closing of the Grunthal plant.”

Driedger went on to say he would do what he could to see the project move on faster than the anticipated start date of next spring.

Beatrice Foods President Bert Icar of Toronto said he was pleased his company would be able to play a role in the expansion of Grunthal’s sewage treatment facilities. The company signed a companion industrial waste agreement with the municipality last month.

“Beatrice Foods has operated a cheese plant in Grunthal for the past 36 years, and with this agreement, looks forward to the next 36.”

Under the industrial agreement, Beatrice Foods will pick up the $1/2 million municipal share of the project, as well as added operating costs of the new lagoon system.

MP Iftody lauded the project, saying the three-way agreement is a key component in diversifying and strengthening the way of life for rural Canadians.

“The federal government is trying to take initiatives that will draw other kinds of investment, and in order for a rural community to grow, it must have infrastructure like sewer and water.”

The new lagoon facility will be capable of handling a village population of 1,600 and is expected to adequately serve Grunthal for the next 20 years.

Village Committee Chair Ken Holme said an additional 49 acres has been purchased at the current lagoon site to the west of the community and final design plans are being worked on. The lagoon expansion will involve construction of an additional waste water stabilization pond, including aeration equipment. The sewer force main and lift station will also be upgraded.

The signing of the agreement ends speculation that the Grunthal plant may be permanently closed in the face of an environmental order demanding improved waste disposal.

When a temporary environmental license was first issued in 1991, a company spokesman said they would comply with the order, but were finding economic issues just as pressing as environmental ones.

One of the costly options facing the company was the lining its own lagoon with a metre-thick layer of compacted soil and fitting it with a synthetic liner.

Hanover council, in the end, decided to pursue enlarging the Grunthal lagoon to accommodate Medo-Land, rather than creating a separate lagoon to serve only the plant.

Medo-Land, opened in 1958 by Modern Dairies, was the largest powdered milk and butter plant in Manitoba, and by the 1960’s was processing 20 million pounds of milk annually.

Today, the Medo-Land cheese plant handles 20-30 million litres (some 56 million pounds) of milk annually.

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