The Town of Bonnyville met with its consultant to discuss Moose Lake water, weighing options of acquiring a new water treatment plant for Moose Lake, which the town was told would increase water quality, as well as whether the North Saskatchewan River is a better water source option than Moose Lake.
Ken Buhagiar, compliance consultant hired by the Town to deal with the Bonnyville's water issues, met with council during its Nov. 27 meeting. He said Alberta Environment has not yet given a direct answer as to which option it feels is more fitting for Bonnyville.
“Their answers are all very politically correct and it is, ‘We would support either decision. Whether the Town of Bonnyville decides to upgrade their regional water facility or whether a regional pipeline comes in from Cold Lake, we would support either one as long as water is provided to the Town of Bonnyville.' That is what everyone that I've talked to from Alberta Environment has said,” explained Buhagiar.
He considered the pros and cons for each option. The water treatment plant would cost a lot of money to rebuild whereas the North Saskatchewan River, though it is fast-moving water, is filled with far more pharmaceuticals than Moose Lake, he said.
“From a raw water perspective, how does Moose Lake compare to the North Saskatchewan River and the Elk Point/St. Paul area,” asked Mayor Ernie Isley to Buhagiar.
“The river is constantly being replenished from tributaries, it's moving a lot, whereas Moose Lake has a certain amount and because of its size, one drop goes in and then it takes nine years for it to get to the other side,” he said.
“But when we talk about water quality, you can get really complex. The new thing is pharmaceuticals in the North Saskatchewan River. How many sewage outfalls are before Edmonton? What's it like when it gets to Saskatchewan? So if you look at it from a pharmaceutical standpoint, well, Moose Lake would be much better.”
Buhagiar said it takes about nine years for water to pass through Moose Lake, which is its biggest drawback.
“So what I'm hearing is it's very possible to treat Moose Lake water and bring it to a much better level with a new water treatment plant,” said Coun. Ray Prevost. To which Buhagiar replied: “absolutely.”
“You need to look at your raw water source, what the challenges are and what the goals you want to achieve are,” said Buhagiar.
“I don't want to give the impression that we're satisfied with Moose Lake water, but if we decided to stay with that as our water source, what would be the best method of treatment,” asked Prevost.
Buhagiar suggested a stepped approach for one to two years, followed by reverse osmosis. However, this process could be expensive and there are some downfalls to using reverse osmosis, so he suggested the town hire an engineer before exploring these options.
In total, he estimated a new plant could cost between 4-6 million dollars. This would replace the existing plant, which has been in operation since 1982.
As far as treatment goes, Buhagiar said he has seen other municipalities in worse situations.
“Have I seen raw water sources that are a lot worse and a lot more difficult to treat than Moose Lake? Absolutely,” he said.
“But a lot of people get stuck on the source. I mean, in Arizona and some places, reuse is becoming common. Taking what you flush down the toilet, treating it, and then actually injecting it into an aqua filter.
The sky is the limit but I don't think Moose Lake, at this point from a treatment perspective, is so horrible that we can't deal with it.
“We're actually dealing with it, with a facility that is quite old.”
Buhagiar did confirm that upgrading the water treatment plant would increase water quality for Bonnyville.