Concerns surround decommissioning of city’s water system

With the city’s main drinking water source set to be decommissioned by BC Hydro, some members of council are concerned

With the city’s main drinking water source set to be decommissioned by BC Hydro, some members of council are concerned the city doesn’t yet have a plan B.

As part of the John Hart Dam reconstruction project, within the next five years, BC Hydro will be removing the three penstocks which currently deliver the city’s drinking water from John Hart Lake to the city’s water treatment facility.

That’s forcing the city to build a new water intake system to continue providing the community with water.

The replacement concerned Coun. Larry Samson at Tuesday’s council meeting as council was preparing to award the replacement project to Stantec Consulting Ltd.

“We’re going from three pen stocks down to one line,” Samson said. “Is there any back-up being planned at this stage, if something was to go wrong with the single line?”

Ron Neufeld, the city’s general manager of operations, said that will be taken into account and noted the new system will be more secure than what is currently in place.

“In terms of reference or scope of design for this project, it will obviously be taking that view into consideration,” Neufeld said. “It will in fact provide a greater level of security for the community than what exists currently with the BC Hydro penstocks as BC Hydro has already identified seismic concerns with the penstocks at play.”

Neufeld said the new system will be designed to high seismic standards to ensure it can withstand a powerful earthquake.

“It will be better in terms of system integrity than what is in play today,” Neufeld stressed.

He added that the city is also looking long-term at developing a redundancy plan which would involve designing a secondary water source for the community.

Neufeld said the city is considering in the future the possibility of taking water from a higher lake in the dam system, specifically McIvor Lake. In the meantime, Neufeld said there are other options the city can consider for a back-up plan, such as a direct pumping system.

Mayor Walter Jakeway, however, wasn’t satisfied with that answer.

“Mr. Neufeld I hear what you’re saying but if we’ve got a chance to do it, why would we not do it now?” Jakeway questioned. “You never know when a big event is going to happen and we need a back-up. I’d expect to see this plan include a plan of how we can do a redundancy.”

In the end, council voted to award the water project to Stantec Consulting at a cost of $422, 154. BC Hydro will be contributing $500,000 to the project as per an agreement with the city that Hydro will pick up 75 per cent of the costs to build a new drinking water system.