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Quesnel to seek grants to cover estimated $34M water treatment system

The manganese removal process selected includes low dose chlorination

Quesnel’s drinking water was the topic of conversation at the May 21 city council meeting.

Council voted to receive the 2023 Annual Water Report, which gives a summary of the city of Quesnel’s water management practices and a brief description of the water distribution system. Council also voted in favour of directing staff to seek grants to cover the costs of a new, multi-million dollar water treatment system that is needed to remove manganese.

City staff have been working on a grant-ready water treatment plan for the removal of manganese and microbiological contaminants since Canadian drinking water guidelines were updated for maximum allowable concentration of manganese.

Quesnel’s drinking water exceeds the new level, and will remain on a water quality advisory until a treatment system is in place.

Council learned the cost estimate of $24 million reported in early 2021 to council for the treatment system is now $35.24 million dollars which comes with an estimated operating and maintenance cost addition of $766,000 annually. It would also take four to five years to complete.

Several council members voiced their concern over completing a preliminary water treatment system that uses chlorine and whether council has engaged enough with the public on that option.

Council suggested exploring other alternatives and the costs associated with other treatment systems “before we get past the point of no return.”

Staff said they would determine what the cost would be to explore other options and alternatives, and report back to council.

In the meantime, staff were directed to look for funding.

“If we don’t start looking for funding we are just kicking this problem down the road further and further and further,” said Coun. Martin Runge.

City Drinking Water Report

The city’s water distribution system provides untreated potable drinking water to approximately 10,200 residents, commercial businesses, and local industry. There is currently no treatment or disinfection provided in any part of the Quesnel water system.

Quesnel exceeds provincial testing regulations, collecting samples at 16 individual sites bi-weekly, analyzing for total coliforms, E. coli, heterotrophic plate count (HPC), and turbidity and, testing all reservoirs and wells monthly.

The water system is comprised of six groundwater production wells, seven reservoirs, five booster pump stations and three main pressure reducing valve (PRV) stations.

There are approximately 114 km of water main, 460 fire hydrants, and 3,642 individual service connections.

The city of Quesnel also operates a bulk water delivery site where, for a fee, customers may fill containers for personal use.

In 2023, water consumption (metered at the source) for the city amounted to 2,347,660 cubic meters of groundwater pumped by the production wells. This is an increase of 1.43 per cent from the 2022 total volume of 2,323,333 cubic meters. For reference, one cubic meter of water contains 1,000 liters.

On June 10, 2022, Northern Health placed a Water Quality Advisory on the city of Quesnel’s water distribution system and required the city to issue a public notice containing information on manganese in drinking water.

Manganese at unsafe levels can make water smell bad, leave stains and affect taste, but more importantly, as Health Canada described, “Drinking water with high levels of manganese may harm brain development in infants and young children.”

Water Treatment System

The manganese removal process selected includes low dose chlorination to facilitate manganese removal. Other processes looked at that did not require chlorination included biofiltration and membrane filtration. These were determined to be much more complex and come at a substantially higher cost due to the number of water sources for city water and the layout of the system. In home manganese removal was also investigated however was ruled out early on as it did not meet the health regulations and guidelines in a community with Quesnel’s serviced population.

Angie Mindus

About the Author: Angie Mindus

I began my journalism career in daily and weekly newspapers in Alberta.
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