May '08 Newsletter

Town Council News

May  2008                                                                        Volume 3, Issue 2

Athabasca Census 2008: Stand up and be counted

Enumerators from the Town of Athabasca have been knocking on doors since May 21, counting heads in an effort to tally the town’s true population.

This census is very important to the community, notes Census Coordinator Melody Wolansky. The more people residing in the Town, the more money the Town will receive in grants. The census also serves as a foundation for planning new community services and improving existing ones.

The figure currently being used, provided by Statistics Canada and taken from the 2006 federal census, is 2,575, a figure that has most certainly changed.

“Our grants are based on population, per capita,” says Melody. “We’ve experienced some growth that hasn’t been recorded.”

If your household has not yet been counted, rest assured that it will be soon. Please watch for the enumerators and please be cooperative. Town enumerators will clearly identify themselves and will present photo identification.

Melody expects the census to be completed before June 30, the census deadline, since the enumerators, members of the Town staff, know the community and have just one question to ask.

“Our staff are familiar with the area and the only question they are asking is how many people lived at that address as of May 21, 2008.”

Once completed, the census results will go to the Province for review, after which time it will be considered official and can be released to the public.

For more information about Athabasca Census 2008, contact Melody at the Town Office, 675-2063.

Water: worth its weight in Alberta “Black Gold”

 Provincial water purity standards on the rise: what it means for Athabascans

Water is now considered by some to be the “new oil” in Alberta.

Even though Athabasca sits at the wet end of a very dry province, stricter standards of water purity are coming: local residents will eventually have to pay the price along with all other communities throughout the province.

The value of water as a precious commodity has continued to increase over the past number of years. Athabasca Mayor Colleen Powell notes that European nations have long since learned to cherish and conserve their limited water supplies. Albertans will finally be forced to face reality and follow suit.

Current water standards provide safe, treated water for Athabascans, assures the Mayor. But since the Walkerton, Ont., issue in 2000 and other water concerns across Canada, the Province of Alberta has been developing new strategies and working towards improved water safety standards.

“They want to go to the next level and start removing, not just more of the bacterial stuff, but some of the viral components as well,” Colleen advises.

Local water is currently being processed through a straight chlorination system. Athabasca’s new water treatment plant, proposed for completion by the end of 2009, will incorporate a multi-unit array of membrane filters. These highly sophisticated filters are capable of trapping even smaller, microscopic particles.

“The membranes we have purchased will enhance the purity of the water to a far greater degree,” states Colleen.

However, the membrane filters in the new system are far from being your typical household filters, both in function and in cost.

“They are better. They are expensive,” asserts the Mayor. The multi-unit system costs $1.7 million.

Though it may be little consolation, the filter system purchased for Athabasca is not the most expensive one available: there is a multi-unit membrane filter system that is a step above and costs even more.

 Water rates will increase for local users

Several factors will contribute to the eventual and likely significant increase in water rates for Athabascans.

Upgraded, modernized facilities and equipment, such as the membrane filters, will be necessary due to the Provincial water safety standards.

The new water treatment plant being planned is in response to the anticipated long-term needs of the town and the region. Upgrades to the existing plant could be done at a slightly lower cost, but the life of a new plant will exceed the life and viability of maintaining the old facility.

In the long run, a new water treatment plant is more fiscally responsible than simply upgrading the old, and in either case, new water safety standards still have to be met, so substantial costs will ultimately result.

Once the new treatment plant is built and operational, new methods of charging for water will be introduced. The Province is encouraging a process of “full cost recovery” where, basically, all users – whether residential, commercial, industrial or institutional – will pay for what they use and the more they use, the more they pay. The method will be fair and equitable across the board.

“The Province wants all consumers to know the value of this commodity,” Colleen explains. She expects that when Athabascans come to realize the impact that water usage is going to have on their bills they will take greater interest in practices of water conservation.

Saving money, one precious drop at a time

The good news is there are no planned changes in water rates this year. The Mayor simply wants to make certain that all residents and users know about the coming increases well in advance so they can begin preparing for them.

“We need to be cognizant that water throughout this province is going to become a much more expensive, more precious commodity,” says Colleen. “Let’s go into this with our eyes wide open and do whatever we can to mitigate the cost.”

The Town is developing a water use strategy that will promote public awareness of the need for water conservation. Colleen notes that not only will user conservation practices help to reduce personal water bills, but can also help reduce the demand on the water processing infrastructure, thereby helping to reduce ongoing operational costs.

In preparation for rising water rates, consumers should inspect all water fixtures; no sense in letting money go down the drain unnecessarily due to leaky faucets and toilets. Older fixtures should be replaced with new, low-flow alternatives.

The Town currently has a Water Conservation Fixtures Bylaw that governs the installation of plumbing fixtures, including toilets, shower head fixtures, basin and sink faucets, and urinals. Any of these fixtures installed in new residential, commercial, industrial or institutional construction must comply with specific low-flow plumbing standards.

While some basic fixture replacements may not be subject to the bylaw, it is hoped that all consumers will consider low-flow alternatives when the time comes for replacement.

More information on water conservation practices and recommendations will be made available as the Town’s water use strategy is refined.

Town to purchase water, set rates when new treatment plant opens

When the new water treatment plant is built and goes online towards the end of 2009, the Town will not own the facility, as it does with the current facility, says Mayor Powell.

“The Athabasca Regional Water Services Commission will run the plant,” she explains. “We will purchase water from the Commission and sell it to our residents and businesses, with the rate to be determined by the Town based on the cost of the water purchased.”

Colleen further explains that Athabasca chose to go with a regional water system at the prompting of the Alberta government, based on their Water for Life sustainability strategy:

“The Province wants to provide safe treated water from a reliable source to regional areas. We were encouraged to develop a regional water system using the Athabasca River as the sole source. Athabasca, Colinton, Boyle and Grassland are included, plus some points in between, and possibly Wandering River in the future.”

Regional water treatment plants are feasible. Athabasca’s proximity to the river makes it the likely choice for the location of a treatment plant to service the region.

The cost of the new treatment plant is currently estimated at around $22 million, up from an original estimate of about $17.8 million due to the rate of inflation over the past 18 months. Inflation could yet affect the final figure. Fortunately, a provincial grant, available through the Water for Life initiative, will fund the project to 78.12 per cent.

Also, a capital cost sharing agreement has been established with the County of Athabasca and Village of Boyle, based on usage.

“Our costs are associated with the water treatment plant alone, not the pipelines, because we don’t use them,” says Colleen. “Our contribution is higher than the County and Boyle’s because we have higher use.”

Farmers and water coops along the pipeline corridor can elect to hook into the system, she advises, but those lines will be trickle fed, not pressurized like town water. Subdivisions would have to feed into a community reservoir.

The bottom line: cheap water a privilege of the past

Water safety policy in Alberta is being made for a dry province. All communities throughout the province will eventually face the same situation as Athabasca.

As water becomes an increasingly more expensive commodity, a regional water system and a new treatment facility located in Athabasca offer the best long term economic benefits for the Town.

All things considered, the bottom line is this: Colleen wants everyone to know with certainty that cheap water will soon be a thing of the past.

“With these huge capital costs, the chances of your water bill remaining the same are nil,” she declares.

Significant increases in water rates are on the horizon.


Summer events shaping up in Athabasca

 Combine the blend of local history and nature with the diversity of events and activities that happen throughout the year and it is no mystery why Athabasca is a community treasured by residents and visitors alike.

With summer fast upon us, many activities are being planned to appeal to recreation and tourism enthusiasts of all ages. A few examples:

- Science Outreach-Athabasca Butterfly Count, June 21

- Magnificent River Rats Festival, June 30-July 1

- Billy Loutit Triathlon, youth and adult events, July 19-20

- A Day of Arts, Aug. 23

- Hockey Camp, youth and adults, Aug. 25-29

- 30th Annual Whispering Hills Country Music Association Old Time Fiddle Contest, Aug. 30-31

- Golf tournaments throughout the summer at the Athabasca Golf and Country Club

- Athabasca Country Tourism Photo Contest

- Friday night Farmers Markets

- Continued expansion of the Rotary Trail system

- Various riverfront activities

- Another drive-in movie night to be held, this time at the brand new Athabasca Regional Multiplex on University Drive . . .

 ...The list goes on and on; truly something for everybody and it’s all happening in Athabasca, this summer.

 Athabasca Country: Our Good Nature Beckons

With so much happening and all of it exciting, it seems unfair to ask local Athabasca Country Tourism Coordinator Nadine Hallett to single out particular events. However, Nadine does offer a few highlights from her long, long list of summer attractions.

  • For starters, the Athabasca Visitor Information Booth officially opened for the season on May 16! Located at the east end of the riverfront, the “little orange caboose” will remain open for locals and visitors alike until Aug. 30.

 In addition to local and regional information and souvenirs, the Visitor Information Booth also offers resources from other Canadian communities.

  • While accessorising for summer in Athabasca, there is one very important item that Nadine recommends to include: a camera. Athabasca Country Tourism is again sponsoring a photo contest focusing on favourite tourism photos of the region. The emphasis should be on nature, history and events.

“We always have a need for new photos and we can’t be everywhere, so . . .” says Nadine, “if you’re at any of the summer events, take pictures and submit them to our contest.”

This year, only electronic submissions will be accepted. The prize is a photo sitting, donated by Kisville Photography. Details and entry forms are available at

  • Athabasca University Convocation ceremonies take place June 12-14. A significant annual event to begin with, it is significant from a tourism point of view as well, advises Nadine.

“Several thousand people visit our community for Athabasca University’s Convocation,” she explains. “Grads, their family members and friends.”

Athabasca Country Tourism sends postcards with every AU invitation, directing recipients to visit the tourism website for information about Athabasca.

A big summer attraction in Athabasca is the annual Magnificent River Rats Festival (MRRF), June 30-July 1. Considered one of the biggest small town Canada Day celebrations in Western Canada, the MRRF is a town-wide event offering onstage entertainment at the Athabasca Riverfront as a key feature.

Highlights of this popular event include a Chamber of Commerce parade, Red River Cart races and Heritage Tours compliments of the Athabasca Heritage Society, Show n’ Shine car show, Strawberry Tea at the Athabasca United Church, a range of children and youth activities and more!

Additional details about the festival can be found at

A very special event is planned this year, set to correspond with MRRF and Canada Day celebrations. The Strathcona Mounted Troop will perform a musical ride on June 30 as part of the Athabasca Community Thank You to Canadian Forces and Families. The performance will be at the Athabasca Ag Society/Lions Club Rodeo Grounds. There is no charge for admission to the musical ride.

  • Triathlon enthusiasts of all ages can test their mettle during the Annual Billy Loutit Summer Despatch, July 19-20. The Kids of Steel youth event goes Saturday, and the adult event on Sunday. More details,

Shannon Loutitt, great granddaughter to Billy Loutit (also spelled Loutitt) is planning to celebrate her great granddad’s 1904 100-mile run from Athabasca to Edmonton with a run of her own from Edmonton to Athabasca. She will leave Edmonton on July 18 and hopes to arrive in Athabasca in under 24 hours, in time for the Kids of Steel event on July 19.

Ty Hart and Friends Afternoon in the Park, an annual benefit concert for local causes, will provide more music on the riverfront, Aug. 23. More information, Eva, 675-3295.

As a follow-up to their 9th Annual Pig Roast and Bike Rally (located between Lawrence Lake and Island Lake, July 11-13), the Hawg Flatts Motorcycle Association will hold their annual Show and Shine and Toy Run in Athabasca on Aug. 23. More information,

A new event for Athabasca, also scheduled for Aug. 23, is a Day of Arts. Dylan Richards, chairperson for the organizing committee, invites interest and proposals from artisans in the community: 675-1197

  • Old Time Fiddle fans can start breaking in their toe-tapping boots: the Harvest Gold Old Time Fiddlers Weekend celebrates its 30th year on Aug. 30-31. Sponsored by the Whispering Hills Country Music Association, the popular event features a weekend of traditional fiddle music and includes a fiddle contest that attracts competitors of all ages and spectators from several provinces. This year, the Fiddlers Weekend will be held at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex. More information, Art, 675-4828.

For a more complete list of scheduled events in and around Athabasca this summer, plus maps, photos and much more, visit

 Making summer marvellous with the Multiplex

The newest community-centred venue in the area is the Athabasca Regional Multiplex, governed by the Athabasca Regional Multiplex Society.

Management and staff of the brand new facility are working hard to blend existing programs with new opportunities. Dustin Pysyk, Assistant Director of Regional Recreation, offers some highlights to take note of for the summer.

“We have teamed up with Whispering Hills Daycare to create a new format of summer programs,” says Dustin. “The Multiplex and the day care have hired coordinators to oversee these programs.”

The larger pool of staff means a higher participant-to-staff ratio, and that translates into the potential for children to take advantage of more opportunities, notes Dustin. It also introduces the possibility of providing an all-day program – an added benefit and convenience for working parents.

  •  Fitness enthusiasts will be happy to know that the Athabasca Pipelines Fitness Centre is fully furnished and functional. Located on the second level of the Multiplex, the centre offers all the necessary equipment for a thorough, multipurpose workout.

 Come June 30 and July 1, children and youth will have plenty to look forward to during the Magnificent River Rats Festival.

“Our summer program staff is proud to once again be part of the Magnificent River Rats festival,” says Dustin. “Children’s activities have increased over last year; they are bigger and better.”

Between the River Rats Festival, other local events and field trips outside of the community, summer program coordinator Mandy Oberg is excited!

“We are planning Laser Tag – that’s new – Spy Day (Mission Impossible), a girl’s sleep-over, a camping trip, other age-related events,” states Mandy. “For example, a Teddy Bear picnic, Nature Day, paint ball.” For more details, call Mandy at the Multiplex, 675-2967.

As a multi-use facility, the Multiplex offers a variety of opportunities beyond the recreational. Acknowledging local interest in the arts, Dustin and his staff are looking at possibilities to encourage more such events in the facility.

“Having expertise in the arts and knowing how to promote the arts, we believe it is beneficial for the Multiplex to expand our focus on those opportunities,” he affirms, noting the Day of Arts being planned in the community for Aug. 23.

Hockey schools are popular in the summer, and Athabasca is not to be left out.

“We have agreed to host a hockey school, Aug. 25-29,” states Dustin. “Canadian Trinity Hockey School, out of Edmonton, will conduct the school for all ages, even adults, if they are interested in registering.”

Movie fans will want to drive up to the Multiplex for some big screen entertainment.

“We are doing a drive-in movie again,” advises Dustin, “but the date is to be determined. This year, it will be in the Multiplex parking lot.”

Member teams of the Athabasca Slo-Pitch League have taken to local fields, and since participants can work up a hunger, the Buy-Low Lounge in the Multiplex has put together a couple of Team Platter Combos (wings, ribs, nachos, onion rings, fries, pizza) to help fill the gap. Of course, the lounge is open to non-members and non-players as well.

Other lounge specials are in the works, too, notes Dustin. Call the Multiplex for days and times of Buy-Low Lounge operation: 675-2967.

If you like mini-golf, or if go-carts are more your speed, there could be some good news on the horizon.

“We are looking at the possibility of indoor miniature golf and also electric go-cart racing,” says Dustin. Information on these attractions will be announced as it becomes available.

Athabasca Landing Pool is another great recreational source to take advantage of over the summer. For summer swimming programs and schedules, contact ALP at 675-5656 or look for pool information on the Multiplex website.
  • Dustin also recommends, for those so inclined, the riverfront Spray Park and Skateboard Park for outdoor recreation and activity.

    Through the course of the year, the Athabasca Regional Multiplex will introduce additional programs.

    Fall programs for youth, adults and seniors focused on fitness, health and wellness, and sports are in the planning.

    “Watch for more details,” advises Dustin.

    Visit regularly.

    Town waste management, recycling services undergo changes

    Athabasca is a community that takes a serious approach to environmental responsibility, as evidenced by local recycling practices and the support of professional waste management services.

    In an ongoing effort to improve operational efficiency, employee safety and service to the community, the Athabasca Regional Waste Management Services Commission is introducing a few changes.

    “Effective June 1, all residential recycle and garbage collection pick-up points will be front curb on a year round permanent basis,” advises manager Rob Smith. “There will be no more back alley garbage pick-ups, with the exception of areas where no front curb exists, or where back alley access may provide better accessibility for safety reasons.”

    The change met with the approval of Athabasca Town Council in an official vote on May 6.

    Most areas of the town already had front curb pick-up due to the spring schedule, notes Rob. New areas include high school hill and portions of Muskeg Creek.

    A further change to the pick-up schedule will have all Friday pick-ups moved to Thursdays, also effective June 1.

    “This is to accommodate a more efficient and effective work schedule for the crew,” Rob explains. “For example, we’ve rolled two half-days into one day.”

    One other change that may affect only a few residents is the discontinuance of compost pick-up services.

    “There is now no compost pick-up program,” Rob confirms. “That program started in 2003, but we had a low percentage of users within the town.”

    Local composters are not without alternatives, however. Some residents will do grass cycling, or mulching, and some do backyard composting. For those who prefer to haul compostable material away, there is an alternative for that, as well.

    “Fortunately, Athabasca is a community that does have a composting area to deliver to,” informs Rob. The entrance to the composting site is located just east of the Athabasca River Bridge, on the north side of Hwy. 831. For hours of operation, contact the Town Public Works department, 675-2403.

    Weight limit reduced on regular trash bags

    For reasons of health and safety, the maximum amount of garbage allowable in a single trash bag will be 20 kg. This is the same standard being adopted by other municipalities.

    “The bag limit per household is still three bags, but the weight limit has changed from 25 kg to 20 kg,” notes Rob. “It’s for the safety of the pick-up crew.”

    In the event that a garbage bag is too heavy, or if the curb-side trash fails to meet certain other requirements, garbage pick-up personnel use a tag system to alert the resident.

    Offending trash will not picked up. It will be left behind with a red tag attached, identifying the violation. One side of the tag lists requirements or possible violations along with check boxes. The other side of the tag lists the kinds of items not to be collected by the garbage pick-up crew:


     -          Garbage must be in a black, green or white bag, tied and inside a waste container. Maximum bag size, 30 inch x 36 inch.

    -          Loose waste will not be picked up. It must be bagged.

    -          Individual bags must not exceed 20 kg.

    -          There is a three-bag limit per household per week. Extra bag tags may be purchased at the Town Office for $1.00 each.

    -          Pet waste and diapers must be bagged inside a garbage bag.

    Items not to be collected:

     -        Liquids, Leftover Paint or Hazardous Waste

    -          Grass, Leaves, Branches or Garden Debris

    -          Wood, Drywall, Construction or Renovation Debris

    -          Dead Animals, Parts or Carcasses

    -          Furniture, Appliances, E-Waste, TVs, Metals

    -          Loose Garbage, Diapers or Pet Waste (All must be properly bagged)

    -          Overweight Bags

    -          Any item that is acceptable or recyclable in the Blue Box program or at the Athabasca Transfer Site and Recycle Facility

    Rob admits that some minor exceptions may on occasion apply to some items on the above lists. Reasonable exceptions will be at the discretion of the garbage pick-up crew.

    For the benefit of residents, Rob points out that black, green and white bags are traditionally used for trash; orange bags are traditionally used for grass and similar trimmings; blue and clear bags for recyclables.

    Proceeds from refundable containers no longer split with charities

    Until recently, proceeds from refundable containers collected in the Blue Box program were being split with local charities. That has been changed in favour of using the money to further enhance the recycling program.

    “Now, that money is going into a promotional program for curb-side recyclables,” Rob explains. “The idea is education and awareness of the importance and value of recycling.”

    The Athabasca Regional Waste Management Services Commission is looking into possible awareness campaigns, including contests in local media complete with awards and prizes.

    “If, through our promotional efforts, the refundables collected in the Blue Box program grow large enough we may be able to give some back to charities,” says Rob.

     Pick-up amount increases for curb-side recyclables

    Now, in addition to one Blue Box of unsorted recyclables, residents can curb one bundle of flattened cardboard and up to two see-through blue or clear bags of any sorted recyclable.

    “We’ve increased the amount that can be placed at the curb for recycling,” confirms Rob. “And now, single layer boxboard – like cereal boxes, toilet paper rolls, Kleenex boxes – can be placed with the regular corrugated cardboard.”

    Athabasca Transfer Site now accepts inkjet and toner cartridges

    Rob is pleased to note that the Athabasca Transfer Site now has a program to accept inkjet and toner cartridges. “They get sent off to Northern CARE for recycling,” he says.

    Northern CARE (Coordinated Action for Recycling Enterprises) is a not-for-profit organization established in 1994 to advance recycling and waste management in northern Alberta. Cartridges received by Northern CARE are thoroughly cleaned, reassembled, refilled and inspected. Every component of the cartridge is either reused or recycled.

    Complete information about Northern CARE is available at

    Good news for plastics recycling

     A growing demand for recyclable plastic is good news for local recycling enthusiasts and supporters.

    “We can accept all plastic bottles and all plastic tubs and pails,” advises Rob. “The market is starting to grow for recyclable plastic. Emerging markets are interested and we are shipping it out of the country.”

    He notes how the recovery rate on milk jugs has shown a promising increase.

    “The recovery rate is 61 per cent. That is the percentage of items that came into the province that can be accounted for in recycling.”

    For more information on the Athabasca Transfer Site and the Blue Box program, call 675-1117.


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