Pilot testing to find out which technology will work best for potable water treatment in Quesnel is expected to begin in November.
And, yes, chlorination is one of the options that is being considered. Several councillors continued to express a desire to ensure alternatives to chlorination are strongly considered Tuesday, Oct. 29, when council received an update on water treatment from Urban Systems engineer Rick Collins and engineer in training Robert D’Amours.
In May, Health Canada changed the Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines, and with the change in the water quality standard related to dissolved manganese in potable water, and the City of Quesnel is no longer in compliance with those guidelines. Currently, it does not treat its water to prevent microbiological contamination.
In September, council approved spending $298,000 of the City’s Water Capital Reserve to fund the design of a water treatment system for the City’s potable water system. Collins and D’Amours explained to councillors the work they have done so far and what is coming next.
The system for will be designed to address two key aspects of water quality — manganese, and microbiological parameters, including protozoa, bacteria and viruses — they explained.
Urban Systems is currently working on the conceptual design of the water treatment system and will begin pilot testing.
“Conceptual design is about evaluating all the treatment technologies, looking at the different sites where the treatment would be located, figuring out constraints and assessing hydraulics of the system,” said D’Amours. “The pilot testing, it’s actually going to be occurring in November and December, and what it would be is installing temporary small, tiny water treatment systems at the actual sites.”
The data collected from the pilot testing will help the engineers understand which technology deals best with the water coming out of the City’s wells and will inform decisions around how big the system needs to be.
“There’s filtration required for removal of manganese, and as part of the work right now, we’re going to be looking at several options for that — media filtration, membrane filtration,” D’Amours told council. “We’re also evaluating options for other things like biological removal. The main driver for water treatment in the City is the manganese levels; however, there are other things that may require water treatment, and there is ongoing work right now — it’s called a GARP study, groundwater at risk of pathogens. The results of some of these studies will be available in the coming month or so; they may dictate that some of the groundwater sources require U.V. disinfection or chlorination to deal with potential pathogens.”
“Another thing to note is that secondary disinfection, which is having chlorine residual in your system, is recommended by the guidelines and is generally best practice when you are operating a water system, and it is the City’s responsibility to provide potable water to the residents,” he added.
Coun. Scott Elliott told D’Amours and Collins he is interested to see the cost difference between chlorination and different, organic methods.
“You mentioned the c-word — most of the people I talk to really don’t understand, including myself, the implications of chlorine as compared to some of our other options, but it comes down to at least aesthetics and the flavour,” he said.
Coun. Ron Paull, who has said in the past that he was dreading the day treatment would be needed, asked the engineers if “serious and meaningful consideration” is being given to alternatives to chlorination.
“Because I have to say that it’s not in our nature to contaminate our pristine water with chemicals, and I would be very enthusiastic to look at an alternative,” he said.
D’Amours says other options are being examined.
“That’s why at this early stage, it’s important to diligently examine all reasonable options,” he said. “It is important to note that, we’ve been talking about this a lot and we want to go with a technology that is tried and true — so it’s been used throughout B.C. and it’s reliable.”
D’Amours recommends council involve Northern Health in future meetings to hear their thoughts on chlorination.
“Yes, the chlorination word scares people in this community; it has for years,” noted Coun. Laurey-Anne Roodenburg. “We may not have a say in it down the road when we talk about it to Northern Health because there’s always been this lingering piece up here about just chlorinating the water, period, never mind about this particular issue.”
Mayor Bob Simpson cautioned that when looking at alternative options, one has to consider what kind of qualifications staff will need.
“We need some intelligence on the H.R. [human resources] skill set and the readily-available H.R. skill set if we get into something funkier than standard water treatment,” he said.
Urban Systems intends to conduct the pilot testing in November and December and work on the preliminary design in January and February and then to have all the cost estimates and plans prepared for a grant application in early February 2020.