By Raven Nyman
As his community heads into the new year with plenty of tangible potential for both economic and population growth, Mayor Ward Stamer is confident that Barriere’s wells and wastewater treatment systems are in good shape.
Both of the community’s two new wells are ready, said Stamer, and despite a few hiccups, the town’s environmentally friendly sewage system is functioning effectively, too.
Downtown, Barriere’s Solar Aquatics Water Reclamation Centre uses plant and bacterial life to clean its liquid and solid waste to an acceptable standard.
The plant includes a septage receiving station designed to allow for safe septic tank disposal. Unfortunately, the system there hasn’t been separating the solid and liquid waste as it should.
“Every once in a while we could get a smell, and that’s attributable to the fact that the sewage coming up hasn’t had enough chance to [separate],” Stamer explained.
He noted that the plant’s design was a new one and did not work as well as anticipated.
“We end up having too much solar gain in the summertime and what happens is we get too much sun, we get too much heat, we put too much stress on the plants, and that ends up causing problems with how they’re able to clean up the sewage that are in the holding tanks.”
To combat this issue, the District plans to install a shade system that will lower solar gain and increase ventilation throughout the plant.
“At the same time, we’ve made improvements to the septic receiving so that those solids will work better so that the sewage that’s coming up to the plant is going to be cleaner, like the way it’s supposed to be.”
Integrating shade will help prevent further odour issues, Stamer hopes.
“We should be able to have the plants healthier and be able to be more vibrant, and have more things going on inside the plant itself, and it will run better.”
In the winter months, the plant already functions well, but the insulation isn’t as good as it should be either, said Stamer.
“It’s working really well right now. But in the summertime, when it gets really, really hot, we end up getting stress on the plants, so then obviously they don’t work properly, then we start getting some smell issues and then everybody gets cranky. But it’s because we just haven’t been able to come up with a way to reduce that solar gain. So we’re looking at some options.”
If their efforts to decrease solar gain are successful, the District will proceed with additional plant improvements. Barriere’s Solar Aquatics Water Reclamation Centre is not even at half capacity and there is also room for future growth.
In addition, the community’s two new drinking water wells—PW1 and PW3—are both ready for use.
“We did the initial testing in the fall, we’ve done the water test. Everything seems to be okay. We’ve still got to put a new flow meter into PW3 so that we can properly alleviate the situation that happened the last time when we had a lightning strike and it screwed up the electronics and actually made PW3 over-pump.”
After PW3 was accidentally over-pumped in the aftermath of a lightning strike, the District spent some time remediating the well.
Since then, no long-term pumping has happened at PW3, but all initial pumping results came back favourably, which means the well should be fine for spring, said Stamer.
The District has also done preliminary work on deep well 1, which was intended as a backup well while the community relied on deep well 2 during the summer months.
“Deep well 1 came back positive as well. The only thing with deep well 1 is that it requires a treatment plant like we had before, and that treatment plant has to be repaired.”
A new treatment plant would service both new wells, as deep well 1 has higher levels of manganese and iron, while deep well 2 could have the influence of surface water, said Stamer.
“The word is ‘could’ because the water is consistently different than the water in deep well 1 and if somebody can ascertain that there could be an influence of surface water getting into that aquifer, then, if we ever re-drill into that aquifer with a new deep well number 2, it will need some form of treatment, whether it’s going to be membrane or ultraviolet, we’re not entirely sure. But going forward, we know that we have probably between those two aquifers, we have at least 1000 to 1200 gallons a minute of water that’s there and it’s been there consistently for 25 years.”
As Barriere grows, Stamer anticipates that the community will inevitably require a new treatment plant, which could be expensive.
“We’ll be looking for federal and provincial government grants to be able to have that occur. We don’t need it today, we don’t need it tomorrow, but we will need it in our future planning.”
He referenced other small communities like Chase that have successfully used both surface and well water in their systems.
The district is working to determine the requirements to bring deep well 1 back on full time.
“Going forward, it looks like we should have PW1 and PW3 online; that would give us between 400 and 500 gallons a minute.”
Stamer said that deep well 2 provides between 600 and 700 gallons of water per minute.