Charlotte’s new surface water system-an overview

  • Oct. 31, 2007 9:00 a.m.

The exact details of how Queen Charlotte’s new $3.2 million water system will unfold were unclear to some who attended a recent meeting to discuss water quality concerns. Engineer Brian Walker of Dayton and Knight, a firm that has been working with the various forms of local government on the town water system over the past 20 years, gave a brief overview at the Oct. 23 meeting in the QC Community Hall. In a nutshell, the Stanley Lake/Honna River water system is a surface water system that uses the lake as a reservoir and takes water supply from the Honna River. The planned catchment system at Stanley Lake would not raise the lake level, but retain water that flows out during the rainy months. One foot of water retained on Stanley Lake would provide the town with 150,000 gallons a day for three months. The plan is to use the Honna River during high flow times in fall, spring and winter. The two existing wells at Tarundl Creek, which by themselves are not able to meet the maximum use needs of the village, would be allowed to recharge over the winter, and would then be used to draw water in the summer. The Honna River, with the help of water release from Stanley Lake would then provide back up. Keeping the wells active also provides backup for the Honna system, prone to high turbidity, or muddiness, during the rainy season. Mr. Walker says when turbidity is an issue, the system can be programmed to switch automatically to wells, or an operator can make the switch. Whether the intake is moved or not, there are still several aspects of the system that can move ahead. The road into Stanley Lake is now complete, but the control structure is still in the design phase with construction to begin next summer. The treatment facility is also still being designed, but Mr. Walker expects construction to be completed by 2008. He says if the intake is moved environmental and archaeological assessments will have to be done in the new location along with more administrative work to change the water license, get permits and Department of Fisheries approval. A .5 kilometre road would need to be built, three phase power brought in and the pumping system rethought to lift 60 metres from the river instead of 20 metres. Mayor Carol Kulesha said at the Oct. 23 meeting that the town needs a new water supply and surface water is the only way to go. She says approximately 23 wells have been drilled over the years in the search for water. Successive studies have indicated that groundwater is not a viable option. According to Dayton and Knight’s 2005 Water Supply study, the town’s well-water system was first constructed in 1984 with a minimum supply guaranteed by a contractor. By 1985, it was obvious the wells could not meet the supply demands and water had to be hauled by pumper truck from Tarundl Creek. In 1991/92, two new wells were developed near Tarundl Creek. The water was reported to be high in iron and manganese. In the mid 1990s, water rationing was in effect due to water supply shortages and in 1998/99 a chlorination facility constructed near the Tarundl Creek wells. These wells are now the village’s primary wells and often pump beyond their capacity, making the town water susceptible to sea water intrusion. New storage tanks, leak detection and water main looping work has helped to address some capacity issues. In 2002, the management committee applied for a provincial grant to create a plan for the Stanley Lake surface water system. According to a submission the management committee sent to the Observer, the committee asked the province to approve and finance a water supply system using the existing wells and two new wells dug in the Tarundl aquifer. The Province would only agree to fund a project that provided more gallons per minute. The only option that provided the requisite gallons is the Stanley Lake/Honna River project. The management committee held a meeting in September 2003 to go over the options for water supply. Thirty-five people attended that meeting and voiced their concern over drinking water from the Honna River, whether taken above or below the dump. The concerns were based on annual treatment costs, fish in the water, potential logging in the area and future leaching from the landfill. Mayor Kulesha says the village, which incorporated in 2005, has now inherited the water project from the management committee. She says the management committee was aware of citizens’ concerns about sourcing water from the river, but the data presented in all reports have indicated the landfill is not having an unmanageable impact on the water. She said several factors including the configuration of the land, which is more easily accessible near the bridge, and the additional costs of locating above the landfill where also taken into consideration. She says the citizens of Queen Charlotte who are grappling with whether they can support the water intake where it is now planned will have to decide whether they have confidence in the science that has been presented. She said she is willing to drink water taken from the river below the landfill, but she is also willing to move it if that is what the community wants.