Hay River should consider replacing its water treatment facility, the NWT’s Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (Maca) has told the town.
At Hay River’s council meeting on Monday, a Maca representative said a new, “modernized” facility would be better-suited to address the water quality needs of the town.
The recommendation comes after residents of Hay River and nearby communities spent more than 100 days under boil-water advisories this year, largely related to high water levels and increased muddiness in the water.
However, the cost of a new water treatment plant and upgraded system was quoted at approximately $15 million, based on similar work elsewhere in the NWT.
“The water treatment plant was built for older regulations. It’s an old building, it’s degrading,” said Justin Hazenberg, the department’s engineering team lead for water and sanitation.
Maca suggested the town could begin work on a new facility in the next five years, something Mayor Kandis Jameson said “isn’t unreasonable.”
“Obviously water safety is a key concern of this council and it’s a priority for me,” she said.
Hazenberg told council the current water plant was built to health standards that date to 1986. Regulations have since changed.
He said the plant is still functional and “could work for some situations” but lacks space for upgrades or new systems and is beginning to corrode. A new facility, Hazenberg said, would cut down the number of boil-water advisories.
Maca said it could help with planning, project management, and procurement for a new facility. Whether any financial assistance would be available to the town was unclear.
Councillor Keith Dohey said on Monday he was concerned about the price of the facility.
“We’ve had different engineers telling us to spend money on this facility we’ve got sitting out there, that we’re now being told we’ve probably thrown away,” he said.
“Every time we turn around, Maca’s got a new recommendation for us. Very little comes in the way of support to do that.
“They are well aware of our funding issues and they seem to be able to pull their money out of a hat whenever they need it for anything they want to do, but the communities get left behind every time.”
Jameson said council would have to discuss Hay River’s capital budget and whether addressing Maca’s report warranted any changes.
Other options are still being explored. Senior administrative officer Glenn Smith said the town’s department of public works will put together short-term, mid-term, and long-term plans in response to the report.
“It’s always a tough decision when you get down to that point of the cost to maintain versus cost to replace,” Smith said.
“How it deals with turbidity, it’s not designed for what we’ve seen this year.
“Now we’re left with a tough decision on what is the new norm and what opportunities are the best path to follow.”