The 2013 water report shows Fort St. James’ water exceeds Northern Health standards for drinkability, however, water hardness poses a problem said Dave Stewart, public works superintendent.
“The hardness comes from iron and manganese which creates a lot of problems for aesthetics (odour). It doesn’t harm you but it’s not good for the pipe systems because after a while the metals erode,” said Mr. Stewart.
The municipality’s water system works entirely off an artesian well located on the north side of Birch Street east. The untreated water is pumped to a 2,278 cubic meter reinforced concrete reservoir at the end of Stuart Drive and runs through 520 connections serving approximately 2200 residents extending to the Nak’azdli reserve.
In accordance with the Drinking Water Protection Act, the Fort St. James public works department does an annual report to ensure safety of the drinking water for residents of Fort St. James and Nak’azdli Band.
In 2013, 47 samples collected at seven different locations were sent to Northern Health for analysis. All samples returned negative for any coliforms or E. coli. The report also concluded above acceptable standards of colour, conductivity, and above acceptable levels of most metals including aluminum, arsenic, chromium and lead. However, results show the water’s iron levels are higher than accepted along with the water’s CaC03 (hardness) levels which are approaching unacceptable standards at 328 mg/l, whereas acceptable would be 200mg/l and unacceptable is 500 mg/l.
“One of the first things I want to add to the system is an injection point so if we ever had to chlorinate we can disinfect the water supply. It wouldn’t take long because we already have the pumps. However, chlorine reacts with manganese so you might get black residue,” said Mr. Stewart.
The public works crew performs daily checks of the water system to ensure everything is running smoothly. They also flush all the main lines in the spring and again in the fall before everything freezes. This includes shutting off the main lines which helps to loosen up the water in the pipes and release build up from over the years.
To help with build up the public works department just purchased a new service line cleaner (water jet) to clean the pipes but, will need to get waiver forms so they can start going into peoples homes. Mr. Stewart says the town could also benefit from replacing smaller lines with bigger lines, especially in certain areas where pipes are much too small for the amount of people attached to them.
“We have the engineering done, the next step is to find funding,” said Mr. Stewart, who says it can cost upwards of $500,000 to exchange half a block worth of two-inch piping for six-inch piping.
Another future plan is to loop around dead-end lines to create better flow and help keep the water cleaner.
“Really I would love to put in a whole treatment plant in to take all the impurities out of the water and then we wouldn’t have to worry about any of this stuff,” said Mr. Stewart.