New water treatment plant on schedule

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The new St. Mary Lake water treatment plant servicing the northern part of Salt Spring Island is on schedule for completion in August 2018.

“We’ve had good weather. We’ve managed to dodge the worst of the winter weather here and we’ve been able to stay on time and on budget,” said North Salt Spring Waterworks District manager Ron Stepaniuk last week. “We’re very happy with where we are right now. It’s a big project, there’s a lot of moving parts . . . We’re comfortable with the process and all the people involved.”

Contractor for the Tripp Road plant is Maple Reinders Inc., with engineering oversight provided by Kerr Wood Leidal. Estimated cost is $8.4 million, with funding approved by NSSWD ratepayers through a borrowing referendum in 2015.

The new plant is necessary to keep water treatment up to standards. The current facility was commissioned in 1974 and has been running continuously for 44 years. Over that time, water quality standards and legislation have changed.

“The plant was old and it was not a high-end plant when it was built 40-something years ago,” Stepaniuk said. “With this new plant we’ll be looking at 50 to 60 years. It’ll meet the water quality standards now and expected water quality standards. They typically become more stringent over time. We have an expectation that this plant will be able to meet other stricter requirements.”

Part of the reason the plant will be more future-proof than the current one is its dissolved air flotation system. A DAF system causes organic particles to float to the surface of the water, where they are scraped off and sent away as waste. The water is then filtered, treated with UV light and chlorinated.

Currently, the existing water treatment plant only has a physical filter, essentially straining the water through a mesh screen. In the new plant, everything can be adjusted, from the pH levels to the position of the intake in the lake, all to get the best water possible.

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