Mayor responds to water treatment concerns

Darrell Trouton explains the cost of the proposed water treatment plant

At the 2013 UBCM, Premier Christy Clark announced she would help the District of Sicamous with building a new water treatment plant. Since that announcement, staff and council have been busy putting together the plans for one and rolling out information to the public. With this column, I’d like to address many of the questions that have come forward from our citizens.

Perhaps the most frequently asked question is how did we get from $4.5 million to $7.9? We are building a significantly different plant that was originally proposed by an engineering firm. The project cost increases since the conceptual work started in 2012 are attributed to additional project requirements. These additional requirements came from a better understanding of the following issues, which account for the majority of the cost increase:

• Backwash water – the appropriateness and limitations of discharging directly to the environment were reviewed and it was decided to direct the backwash to the District of Sicamous sanitary system. This required the addition of a second-stage recovery system to achieve an 80-percent reduction in backwash volume and avoid future costs to upgrade the sanitary sewer collection system.

• Sanitary treatment –  also to avoid upgrades to the sanitary treatment system, a solids separation process was added to the backwash water at a different site location.  Developing this new site and the associated inter-connecting piping are new costs.

• Emergency response – in reviewing the critical nature of the water treatment plant, emergency backup power using a diesel engine generator was included as a project requirement.

• Site location sensitivity – the proximity of the site to residents of Dabell Street and the high public visibility necessitated additional funding for architectural and landscape treatments.

• Robustness of facility – the facility was viewed as a long-term investment and the decision was made to ensure the building could house all future expansion to treatment within 30 years.

• Site issues – site specific conditions such as being within the floodplain and setback requirements by Ministry of Transportation led to additional increases to the project costs.

Due to the location on Dabell Street and Highway 97A, we must build a plant that is visually appealing, while maintaining legal requirements.

These are significant added costs to the original proposal that had backwater discharging into the lake. We do not believe this is good environmental stewardship. Also, it would mean added future costs when it becomes illegal to discharge into the lake.

Overall, there is not just one item that contributes to the increase from the original base budget, but rather several items which, together, add up to about $3.5 million. We have received $3 million in grant funding and will pursue additional funding.

Why is the water not being taken from another source? Developing another source would neglect the significant capital works already invested in the Mara Lake system which includes a deep lake intake with screens, a pump station at the lake, and the second high-lift pump station and clear well at Dabell Street.  A different water source would involve new permitting, water quality characterization, and reliability of quantity. Mara Lake is a high-quality water source.

Another common question has been, why aren’t we using well water? In order to supply the water demands required for all needs, including fire protection, the district would require 8MLD (1500gpm) flow potential. At the time, it was thought that perhaps three high-capacity wells would be appropriate. After consulting with a hydrogeolosgist, a number of issues became evident.

Generally, a well able to produce 500gpm is within a sand and gravel aquifer. One-third of the well logs available hit bedrock, one-third are within fine grained soils and one-third have no lithology noted. All have flow rates of less than 20gpm, except one on Cook Avenue. Based on this data, it was determined that the aquifer was unlikely to be able to supply three wells, each with a flow rate of 500gpm.

Why second-stage Recovery? The membrane filtration system planned to be installed in the Mara Lake Water treatment plant has a recovery rate of 95 per cent. This means that 95 per cent of water drawn from Mara Lake gets through the membranes as clean water and five per cent is backwash water. This goes through a secondary treatment stage, increasing the recovery to 99 per cent. The District of Sicamous honours its commitment to the environment, by not dumping this water back to Mara Lake, so it must be treated. Adding the second stage recovery substantially reduces the volume of water that requires treatment. This means a smaller foot- print for the solids accumulation ponds and a much lower load on the treatment plant. These ponds will be more visually appealing.

We will continue to hold open house meetings. We have also posted a question and answer section on our web page at www.sicamous.ca. Staff is available to answer any questions. Call the District offices at 250-836-2477 and speak to either Heidi Frank or Randy Hand.