The Town of Hay River is awaiting a GNWT report – expected at any moment – that might offer guidance on how the community’s water treatment plant could be upgraded to handle turbidity in Great Slave Lake.
Turbidity – better known as muddiness – has resulted in three boil-water advisories since spring break-up, and the latest was still in effect as of late last week.
“Obviously this year the conditions have been worse than what we’ve experienced in typical years of operation of that now 40-year-old plant,” said Glenn Smith, the senior administrative officer (SAO) with the town. “And it’s not designed to keep up with the turbidity that’s coming through our intake line.”
There may be new technologies available for effectively treating such water, he said.
For example, a settling pond could be used to remove some silt in water.
The water treatment plant underwent a routine inspection during the summer by the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA).
“The key information for us is that report that MACA is putting together right now,” said Smith, who when speaking to The Hub on Oct. 8 noted the report was expected soon.
Meanwhile, a separate inspection of the water intake line in Great Slave Lake is expected to take place later this year.
“We’re still in the process of inspecting to make sure that there isn’t some sort of deficiency in the current system, but if there isn’t anything found…. then you have to start conversations on how to make improvements to increase the capacity for water treatment,” said Smith. “And of course, all that comes with the cost considerations.”
The SAO noted it is tricky to know if changes are necessary, or if the lingering turbidity in the lake is just because of an abnormal year with conditions that may not be seen again.
Smith said that uncertainty has to be taken into consideration when deciding on any major investment to upgrade the system.
The water intake line stretches eight kilometres out into Great Slave Lake.
During an Oct. 5 online meeting of town council, Mike Auge, the director of public works, noted he is waiting to hear back from the contractor undertaking the water intake line inspection on whether it should be done in the fall or winter, when there may be less turbidity in the lake.
“And hopefully when we get that inspection done and get the report back from MACA, we’ll know how to move forward on making improvements to the water treatment plant so that hopefully we can address some of these long boil-water advisories that we have had this year,” Auge said.
The contractor began the inspection work in August, but couldn’t find the intake line because of the turbidity and old information on its location. The intake structure was recently located by sonar from a vessel operated by the Arctic Research Foundation.
During the Oct. 5 meeting, Coun. Brian Willows noted the town has been under a boil-water advisory since the spring.
“And I’m pretty sure that’s never happened before,” he said.
The water can be boiled and then people can drink it, but it’s not very tasty, Willows noted. “Hence the reason that many people are buying water and it’s becoming a significant financial strain on some folks, I would imagine.”