On Sept 25, the Star/Journal sat down with District of Barriere’s Chief Administrative Officer, Bob Payette, and Utilities Manager, Ian Crosson, for an update regarding the status of the municipality’s water system.
First and foremost was a discussion regarding improvements for sharing of information with Barriere residents in a timely manner and how that will be accomplished.
“We are updating to a brand new website design,” said Payette, noting the new website will give District staff the ability to post notices and updates much quicker than before, and in this way it will be providing the public with the information they require much faster than in the past.
“Council loved it, they jumped on it right away and they all agreed that this is one of our high priorities for communication,” said the CAO, “The website will be more user friendly, easier to read, and we are hoping to get it ready for the December Christmas time frame.”
Crosson added that some of the information the Utilities Department posts on the website is required by law. “I have to share annual reports, just like the bylaws, that’s all public information. The new site will make it easier to find things, and that will be a huge improvement.”
Payette noted that during a recent visit from an Interior Health inspector a number of concerns to be addressed as quickly as possible were discussed. These included communication for public consumption, as well as testing protocols. He tells that aside from the new website, the District has also recently purchased a signboard that will be placed by the radio station on Barriere Town Road.
“We want to reach the public with information, so that’s going to be one of our priorities at this time,” said the CAO, ”We want to ensure that the public is informed on key issues such as water restrictions, fire bans, key events in town, council messages during special holidays, and more. That sign board will be prominent – right in the middle of town. I know there are other sign boards in town, but we need our own space to get our own information out.”
Have water restrictions changed?
“Water restrictions are going to stay the same – indefinitely,” said Payette.
What is the plan in regards to moving forward for Barriere water?
“We are working with our consultant engineer on a 10 year water plan, and we are going to come to council with a phased in approach to deal with our current situation, and where we are going to be in the future,” said Payette. “We expect to get the water plan in front of council in the next month.”
Crosson stated, “That will be phase one of the master water plan. A few of the topics that are prominent in phase one will be source, like whether we are going to look at wells, or surface water by the Barriere River. Another aspect of phase one is we are going to look at our treatment options, and those two things go hand in hand, that work will be developed through an asset management plan.”
With all of the changes that are taking place, what is the time line for the current plans of bringing Barriere’s water system up to the point where it can handle the new input, the new infrastructure, and new residents coming in?
“We have a brand new facility and brand new wells in Bradford Park. We have new wells and they do have the capability of potentially producing water for this town for many, many years. PW1 alone, could produce enough water for this town for six to eight months of the year when there is no irrigating. This town could run solely off that one well, with plenty of capacity for six to eight months of the year until the irrigation season happens,” said Crosson, “The obvious problem is that the water quality is not good, it’s still deemed potable from Interior Health but there are elevated levels of iron and manganese, which is very well known for the North Thompson. That basically causes precipitate [an insoluble solid that emerges from a liquid]. When you put that water with precipitate into a water main, that water main doesn’t mean it’s always flowing, so when that flow starts happening it’s like a snow globe when you shake it up all of a sudden you get that debris.”
“When I pick up a glass of water I want to see it clean, and adversely that’s what I want for all of our customers to have,” said Crosson, “So, with the brand new system, and with those brand new wells, the only addition that really has to happen there is to treat that water and remove that iron and manganese. The good thing is that it is not surface water, as there is a different requirement for if you are treating surface water, i.e. river water or lake water, compared to water which is coming from a well. This is because surface water has far more bacteria and viruses which can harm people.”
He commented that it would be nice to have treatment at Bradford Park because that system is all brand new and could do production for Barriere throughout the year, with supplement from another source.
“At that point we would consider a full rehabilitation of Spruce Crescent, which as Mayor Stamer said could potentially be another well,” added Crosson, “It could potentially be that we go to surface water from the Barriere River. That treatment facility would have to be 100 per cent up to date, and the cost of that is going to be exponential compared to any sort of treatment at Bradford Park.”
”We are in a situation where we want to get this planned properly,” added the CAO, “That’s why we are on the water restrictions because it gives us the time to plan accordingly and make sure we make some value added decisions. If we didn’t use water restrictions we would be over tasking our source, and our time envelope to get this done properly could be reduced to almost a day because this could seriously compromise our well. We really need the public to understand the importance of the water restrictions that give us the time to plan accordingly and to get that redundant water system in place.”
Payette added, “Mayor Stamer wants to emphasis that council is focusing on not just the quantity of water, but the quality of water in this water plan, and council is definitely looking at treatment options as well as infrastructure options.”
When you talk about “conditioning the well” at Bradford, what does that mean?”
“The term “conditioning” is directly correlated to the term “development,” said Crosson, “I’ve heard comments of, “It’s not rocket science, you just drill a well and pump water”, and that is absolutely incorrect! There is a lot of science behind conditioning a well, and basically what we are doing is developing the filter pack around the well screen. When you poke a hole down into the earth and you tap into an aquifer, that stirs up debris down there and the water comes through a screen into the well casing. We have to develop the filter pack around the screen, then, as the well is conditioned over time, that filter pack develops naturally to remove fine particulate, etc. from the water.”
The decision to move to a redundant source of water at Bradford Park was because it is a different aquifer and therefore a different source of water. If you have influence into a groundwater source from a surface water source there is always the potential for viruses and bacteria to be present, and this would then require different types of treatment.
“A well protects itself from viruses,” said Crosson, “That’s how we get that reduction in treatment ability as a well at one point would only need one source of disinfection, where with surface water you would then need three sources of disinfection.”
Is the District council looking at revamping the water utility bylaw to reflect 2020/2021 rather than the 1970’s?
“Yes, we are currently in the process of revamping the bylaw to bring it up to current day standards in comparison to other progressive municipal bylaws,” said the CAO, “We are looking at the language within the bylaw to be updated to current terminology, and also the fee structure. Currently the fee structure is a base rate for everybody. We are now looking at a base rate that would also include a tiered consumption rate that will balance the cost between the low consumption users and the aggressive users.”
Right now, low consumption users of municipal water are paying the same rate as the aggressive consumption users. Payette says the new tiered system will balance the cost, and inevitably encourage responsible water conservation.
“This will have to go to council and public review,” said Payette, “But we are certainly open to public concerns and comments as we are all in this together.”
Barriere initiated a conservation plan a few years ago, with one of the first progressive steps of the plan being the installation of water meters. Over time, the consensus of the District office is that water meters work, and the meters have been especially useful in determining where leaks are within the system which has been continuously plagued with aging and leaky infrastructure in many areas.
Payette notes that one of the strong recommendations from Interior Health is for Barriere to have a conservation plan.
That’s what we are driving towards,” concluded the CAO, “In fact it is a requirement that you first have to have a conservation plan before you can apply for infrastructure grants.”