Verner’s continuing brown water woes were back on the agenda at the August 15 municipal council meeting, as town engineer Alan Korell presented a possible solution following meetings between OCWA (Ontario Clean Water Association), the managers of the Verner site, municipal Water & Wastewater, and area residents who worked together to pinpoint current issues.
Korell said that a lot of the water complaints this spring were unusual in that homes affected were close to the plant, and inconsistent with the previous issues. “OCWA produces water, puts it into the system and the municipality takes care of the system in that they fix repairs. We flush the system, but it wasn’t solving the base problem,” he explained. The system is old, established in the 1970’s. “We tried two new things … to be done in Verner and one was unidirectional flushing of the system …try to get as much of the junk out of the bottom … of these pipes that we haven’t been able to get rid of for a number of years. After that we swabbed the worst sections.”
Korell described the process area by area, ending with a universal flush of the system using specialty equipment provided by OCWA, working backwards from the water tower. “While we’re doing the directional flowing, we found that there’s three pumps at the water plant, two of them were working, one wasn’t working at all.” He explained that the water is pushed to the water tower, and with lack of pressure there’s a backflow from the tower to the plant. The easiest way to resolve that was to put in a variable speed pump that provides continual pressure. In addition, it was determined that the inside of the water tower tank is rusted and flaking into the system, and that the watermains don’t loop and there are too many dead ends. A continually flowing loop would keep the system clear, Korell explained.
However, these solutions won’t fix the main issue, which remains the poor quality of water from the Veuve river. As for the permanent fix, Korell said that they’ve revised their thinking and while a watermain running from Cache Bay to Verner remains the most effective solution in the long term, instead of working from Cache Bay to Verner, they are now looking at working from Verner to Cache Bay. While the cost of the project, initially estimated at $10M, is now approaching $20M, it’s still more cost effective than rebuilding the Verner treatment plant. “Instead of starting in Cache Bay and working to Verner, we work the other way. We do the first section from the water plant back to at least Hwy 64 or maybe a little further, and so you’d have two ways out of the water plant. Right now, the water has only got one way out, so [if] something goes wrong… nobody’s going to have water at the other end at all until it’s fixed”, leading to boil water advisories. “I was looking at the distribution system and Verner is essentially one long dead end,” Korell said, and looping the water would resolve some issues.
The pumps in the plant have to be replaced, but technical and budgetary constraints means the work won’t be done overnight. Korell explained that “the water tower was built in 1988. It’s having significant problems … it’s falling apart in there and it’s a lot of cast steel at the bottom. You’re getting a lot of rust coming back into the system. So, we went out for bids. We received the bids on August 9th… they are 60% over budget.” The prices quoted are good for next year, he pointed out, and that may be when the bulk of work can occur. “You can’t take the water tower out of service in Verner in the summer, there’s just too much demand. It can only be done in the fall or the spring, and now that we found out the problem at the water plant we can’t do it until we fix the water problem at the water plant …It’s a challenging situation, but I think we’re getting onto the right track of really understanding the system there and how we can fix it so we don’t get these problems in the future.”