Questions about water quality in Hay River have persisted into December this year, as have questions about the future of the aging water treatment plant.
NNSL file photo

Even though it is December, water quality concerns have persisted in Hay River.

Earlier this month, residents noticed discolouration of the water, which comes from Great Slave Lake.

That is extremely unusual for this time of year.

Mike Auge, the director of public works with the Town of Hay River, addressed the issue during the Dec. 14 online meeting of council.

“Our water quality levels towards the end of last week were getting worse again,” he said. “They’ve kind of stabilized. Not as good as we hoped, but they are still under the limits of the guidelines. So we’ve been seeing some colour in the water, which normally doesn’t happen this time of year.”

Auge said it was hoped that the water quality levels would remain acceptable, and that things would improve.

“With these cold temperatures, hopefully the lake freezes, which leads to improved water,” he said.

The town issued a public notice on Dec. 15 about the water quality.

“Please be aware that residents may notice some colour in the town water,” the notice reads. “The water quality has dipped slightly in the last week but does remain within the NWT Drinking Water Quality Guidelines.”

The notice added that the Town of Hay River tests the water on a daily basis and, if the levels do not meet the required guidelines, the chief public health officer of the NWT will issue a boil-water advisory.

There have already been three boil-water advisories for Hay River and area in 2020 – from May 13 to June 16, from June 19 to July 6, and from Sept. 2 to Oct. 20.

Recent water quality was just one of several water issues discussed during the Dec. 14 council meeting.

Coun. Steve Anderson asked about the status of the delayed inspection of the water intake line, which stretches eight kilometres into Great Slave Lake.

Auge said the inspection is planned for the first quarter of 2021 by a contractor from Alberta.

“At this point we’re waiting for ice to form on Great Slave Lake and get to the levels that they need,” he said. “I don’t have dates from the contractor yet, but I have touched base with them in the past couple of weeks and it is still on their radar, and they are planning for later this winter to get out and do that inspection.”

Anderson noted that he has received questions from community residents about the current water treatment plant, which the town is looking at replacing.

“What are we looking at doing or are we going to consider temporary measures to make sure that our water continues to be stable through the period until we get the new water treatment plant in place?” the councillor asked.

Auge said the town will do what it can with the existing plant.

“There’s only so much we can do with the existing infrastructure that we do have and the conditions that we are seeing in the water this year,” he said. “Hopefully these conditions don’t persist indefinitely.”

Auge added that the town will implement as many recommendations as possible from a report on the water treatment plant prepared by the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA).

The existing plant just isn’t designed to get the colour out of the water, he said. “But we will make every effort to see what we can do to improve our processes and hopefully not be in long boil-water advisories.”

In late October, MACA recommended that the town should build a new water treatment plant within five years, which the department estimated could cost about $15 million.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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