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Drinking straight from the tap
New water treatment plant improves water quality in Jean Marie River

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, December 8, 2011

A new facility has Jean Marie River residents drinking the community's tap water instead of buying bottled water.

NNSL photo/graphic

Gerald Grossetete, Jean Marie River's water treatment plant operator, records measurements of the new plant's functions from a computer screen. Grossetete said the new plant is a vast improvement over the community's previous water treatment system. - Roxanna Thompson/NNSL photo

Jean Marie River's new water treatment plant started operations in October. Designed and built by Corix Water Systems of Vancouver, the plant arrived mostly constructed inside a 18 by five metre trailer.

"People are proud of this plant," said water treatment plant operator Gerald Grossetete.

"They've been waiting a long time for this," he said.

Bottled water

Before the new plant was installed, the majority of the community's residents bought bottled water from Fort Simpson for drinking and cooking. The water delivered to houses from the old plant was only used for dishes, household chores and cleaning, he said.

Grossetete said community residents have been telling him the water from the new plant tastes much better.

Richard Sanguez, a water truck driver, agrees.

"It's good," he said. "Tea tastes good, coffee, everything."

The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) assisted Jean Marie River with getting the new plant.

The department has been working with communities to get their plants up to Canadian drinking water guideline standards, said Eleanor Young, the assistant deputy minister-regional operations for MACA.

The department used $8 million from the federal government's Building Canada Plan to contract the installation of new treatment plants in five communities, including Jean Marie River, Trout Lake, Wrigley, Lutsel K'e and Fort Good Hope.

The combined cost of the plants is $13.8 million. Jean Marie River, Lutsel K'e, Wrigley and Trout Lake each contributed $1 million from their capital budgets. Fort Good Hope was allocated $3.2 million from the GNWT because the project was part of the territorial government's capital plan. The $1.4 million excess went to GNWT's project management costs and a contingency fun.

Jean Marie River is the first community in the group to receive its plant. The others are scheduled to be completed by March 31, 2014, said Young.

The five plants from Corix Water Systems are primarily the same. Each was based on the treatment and filtration requirements for the specific community, Young said.

This is the second time the department has used a bundled contract approach for purchasing water treatment plants. The department earlier assisted Deline, Ulukhaktok, Aklavik, Edzo and Tuktoyaktuk to install plants, completed in March 2010.

"The communities have been happy with the approach," Young said.

The bundled approach is more cost effective than individual tenders and because the plants are similar in design there is an opportunity for training between the communities, Young added.

Grossetete as well as two other community members received two weeks of training from Corix on Jean Marie River's new plant. Grossetete said the plant is an incredible step forward from what the community had before.

The original plant's system involved drawing water from the reservoir and treating it with chlorine before delivering it to the community. There was no filtration system.

Filtered twice

In the new plant, water is filtered twice and then mixed with chlorine before it is ready to be delivered to homes.

The whole system is monitored by a computer that tracks the chlorine and pH levels of the water as well as the turbidity. Grossetete also does daily manual checks.

In the former plant, Grossetete checked the chlorine levels daily but had no way to test the pH.

"Now that I've got all these goodies it's easy," he said.

Grossetete said the plant should be less expensive to operate than the previous one because it uses diesel fuel as opposed to electrical heaters.

If properly maintained, the membranes in the plant should last for three years before needing to be replaced.

The building is designed to have a 40-year lifespan while the plant inside it has approximately 20.

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