Recent History – 2001
Jan. 24, 2001, By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
A report meant to alleviate fears of a Walkerton-like tragedy occurring locally was released during Monday’s city council meeting.
The report, written by deputy administrator Jim Chute, outlines how the city’s water treatment system works, the regulatory framework under which it operates, and the qualifications of the city workers who operate the system.
The water, drawn from the Kiskatinaw River, goes through flocculation and coagulation, a two-step process solids are bonded together and dropped to the bottom and captured.
Then the water goes through chlorination to kill the bacteria, like e. coli., which caused the trouble in Walkerton. Chute said in an interview that the chlorination process is often misunderstood.
“They think that you bleach the water and that kills stuff, and then you still have the bleach in the water,” Chute said. “In fact, what happens is the bacteria eats the chlorine and that kills the bacteria.”
As the bacteria dies, they use up the chlorine. The water treatment operators use measure the chlorine residual to know if the system is working or not.
“You always need to have a chlorine residual because that means that the bacteria have filled themselves up and have all died,” Chute said. “If you have no chlorine residual, you need to add chlorine because it means there are still hungry bugs in there.”
By the same token, Chute said there should never be too much of a chlorine taste. “Anything you can taste is just excess because there’s obviously no bugs left in there to eat it,” he said.
In Walkterton, there was confusion over that concept, Chute said.
“That was clearly misunderstood in the Walkerton case, because the water manager there was saying that he was reluctant to put chlorine in because of the complaints of taste and odour and sort of thing,” he said. “Well, if you’ve got taste and odour, it means you’ve got too much chlorine in there.”
By the end of 2001, the city will have spent nearly $8.8 million in upgrades to the water supply and treatment system over 10 years. Those include a $2.165 million upgrade to the water treatment plant, a $1.075 million upgrade of the Parkhill reservoir and in-town pump, a $1 million upgrade of the Arras pumphouse, $650,000 worth of repairs to the Trail Reservoir, $430,000 for a second mainline from the water treatment plant, $275,000 for a computerized control system, and $53,000 for aeration at the Trail reservoir, all in the last nine years. Further capital expenditure has been approved for 2001, including $750,000 for enhancements to the water storage and treatment capacity at the water treatment plant, $95,000 for improvements to the Hart reservoir, and $50,000 for carbon feed installation at the water treatment plant.
The city is also subject to the safe drinking water regulation, administered by the Ministry of Health. That makes the local medical health officer, Dr. Kay Wotton, the prime regulatory contact, and she has the power to make immediate decisions about public notification of water quality problems.
“This process appears to be in sharp contrast to the system being portrayed in the testimony currently being provided at the Walkerton inquiry,” Chute said in the report.
Meanwhile, the city has secured funding for a water quality assurance plan, which has been presented in draft form and will soon be completed for presentation to council.
Three treatment plant operators run the city’s water and sewer treatment facilities, all of whom are fully-certified through the British Columbia Water and Wastewater Operators Certification Program Society.
Further, they’ve averaged 1,400 hours of specific training each and continue to receive training on an annual basis. “In contrast, Ontario previously required 40 hours of training for certification, now increased to 76 hours in the wake of the Walkerton tragedy,” Chute said.