Drinking water supply at risk of interruption

Campbell River is building a new water intake that will allow the city to continue to draw its drinking water from John Hart Lake

Coun. Larry Samson is concerned there’s no back-up plan should the city’s new drinking water system fail.

The city is building a new water intake that will allow the city to continue to draw its drinking water from John Hart Lake.

But it involves a single line and Samson is worried that if something were to go wrong, the city would be cut off from its drinking water supply.

“We should be looking at an emergency water supply in the event of an interruption,” Samson said at last week’s council meeting. “The interruption can be natural, it can be man-made, it can be mechanical – it can be for a number of reasons.”

Samson said it’s important the city come up with a plan B.

He suggested options that could range from using a pump house on the river, to collaborating with Quicksilver (at the former Catalyst mill site), to using a combination of wells and cisterns that serve the airport.

Samson said the first step is to determine the volume of water needed to sustain the city until the main water supply is back up and running should the main system fail.

“I think it’s important that we identify what is our minimum water flows to maintain our critical infrastructure – our hospitals, our firefighting capabilities, our residential care facilities – and once we determine our demand, how do we best address that,” Samson said.

To get the ball rolling, Samson put forth at the May 27 council meeting a motion directing city staff to report on options for maintaining an emergency water supply. Council approved the initiative.

The city currently shares its drinking water supply system with BC Hydro, drawing water from John Hart Lake which is delivered via three penstocks at the John Hart Generating Station to the city’s water treatment facility.

However, BC Hydro will be removing the penstocks and replacing them with a more seismically sound single tunnel as part of the utility’s John Hart upgrade project.

That’s left the city to come up with a new way of drawing its drinking water from John Hart Lake. Council budgeted $10.67 million for the project, with funding coming from a combination of BC Hydro grant monies and the city’s accumulated water surplus.

In April, council approved an additional $303,967 for further engineering services after the city’s original water intake plan ran into logistical and financial challenges.