Maxwell water plant design decision deferred

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North Salt Spring Waterworks District trustees once again tabled a decision on commissioning a preliminary design for the Maxwell Lake water treatment plant when they met on July 30 at Community Gospel Chapel.

A staff report and request for decision on the subject was originally presented at the May 28 trustees’ meeting, with a Kerr Wood Leidal (KWL) feasibility study the basis of a recommendation to proceed with the design of a dissolved air flotation plant. That same technology was used for the successful St. Mary Lake plant project completed last year.

At last month’s meeting the board heard a presentation from Irfan Gehlen, who is the principal and water supply and treatment sector leader for KWL. Gehlen detailed the Maxwell Lake feasibility study process and the costs of three different technologies explored. The DAF plant was determined to have the lowest capital and 25-year lifecycle costs.

“Mr. Gehlen advised that if the board wants to consider treatment options other than the three examined in the feasibility study, the scope of the feasibility study should be expanded to examine those additional options,” said acting district manager Meghan McKee in a report presented at Thursday’s meeting. 

To give trustees more leeway, McKee had added “expanding the scope of a feasibility study to include other treatment options” to her report as an alternative action for trustees to consider.

Back in May, NSSWD trustee Sandra Ungerson had pressed for “alternate technologies” to be considered, while not able to provide specifics when asked for them by NSSWD staff. Other trustees agreed that the DAF option should not necessarily be accepted without the door being left open for even more possibilities to be considered.

At last Thursday’s meeting, NSSWD chair Michael McAllister again expressed a desire for some flexibility in the process.

“If someone has an innovative approach, we would be remiss in not looking at it,” he said. “I don’t think we need to go back to the feasibility study to include other treatment options. That’s my view. We have the [KWL] report. They are recommending DAF, and I think that will almost certainly be what we get. But to put a line in an RFP that says ‘Creative alternatives will be considered’ is not a bad thing.”

McAllister had made the same suggestion at the May 28 meeting.

Trustee Gary Gagne said he didn’t think the district had to panic about making a decision and especially if costs could be shared with other levels of government following the results of the Salt Spring Island Water Optimization Study currently being undertaken by the Capital Regional District as the lead agency.  A contract for the study was awarded last year to Innova Strategy Group. Results of that study could lead to the NSSWD becoming part of the CRD and thus eligible for federal-provincial infrastructure grants to help fund a new treatment plant or other projects.

“All of these processes require time and money and my feeling is once we’ve settled the governance issue then we know where we stand,” said Gagne. 

Ron Stepaniuk, acting operations manager and past district manager, suggested otherwise.

“I think we have to be cautious about dragging our feet in the hopes of something that may not happen,” said Stepaniuk. “We still have an obligation to provide that water. If there’s a question or uncomfortableness or uncertainty about the breadth of the feasibility study I strongly recommend that you identify or ask for a scope of work to identify some other processes to be included in that feasibility study.”

For more on this story and other NSSWD news, see the Aug. 5, 2020 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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