From left: Regional District of Nanaimo chairman Ian Thorpe, Mayor of Parksville and RDN board member Ed Mayne, and director of RDN Area E (Nanoose Bay) Bob Rogers at the commissioning of the Englishman River Water Services treatment plant on Jan. 9. (Emily Vance photo)

$41.7-million Englishman River water treatment plant opens in Parksville

Facility can filter up to 16 million litres of water per day for Parksville and Nanoose Bay

The $41.7-million Englishman River Water Services treatment plant is now up and running, pumping out between one million and two million litres of water per day to homes and businesses in Parksville and Nanoose Bay.

The plant, in the works since 2011, was officially commissioned on Thursday, Jan. 9.

Just more than $12 million of the overall price tag was provided by the provincial and federal governments through various initiatives. The majority of the rest of the costs are split between the city of Parksville and the Regional District of Nanaimo.

The facility was designed to take the pressure off local wells and aquifers as the mid-Island communities continue to grow.

Parksville Mayor Ed Mayne and RDN chairman Ian Thorpe both spoke at the commissioning of the plant on Thursday morning.

Mayne expressed his gratitude to the province of B.C. and the government of Canada for their funding support.

“The Englishman River Water Service project is a significant community project which now provides the community’s water system with high quality, safe water for future generations,” said Mayne.

Thorpe said the RDN is proud of the innovative partnership with the city of Parksville.

“I think we have all come to recognize over the last several years, or the past decade, if we didn’t know it before – water is without doubt our most valuable resource. And nothing I don’t think is more important than ensuring a sustainable supply of safe drinking water for our residents now and into the future. And that’s what this treatment plant is all about,” said Thorpe.

“It will ensure safe water, reliable water for the Regional District residents in Nanoose Bay and Parksville who receive water from the Englishman River.”

In 2009, the Vancouver Island Health Authority implemented new water regulatory treatment standards for water supply systems, a big part of the push to build the facility.

Director of engineering and operations, Vaughn Figueria, says though the plant currently has a capacity to filter 16 million litres per day, they can expand filtration to 48 million litres daily if required.

Currently, the water supply for the region this time of year draws mostly on wells and the aquifer, as the water from the Englishman River in the winter requires several steps of filtration to drink.

“At this time of year, without this plant we couldn’t be drawing out of the river. And that’s really when all the water is available in the river. We have to overtax the wells. We’ve been finding lately performance of our wells is kind of going down, and this plant will allow us to draw more water out of the river while still preserving the habitat of our fish, and give our aquifer a break,” said Figueria.

The plant was designed specifically to protect aquatic habitats. The Englishman River is home to five species of salmon and three species of trout.

“With climate change coming on, we have to find sources of water. It allows us to not only draw water out of the Englishman River, but respect the environment in terms of the fish requirements for the river and the habitat that’s there,” said Figueria.

“We’re able to balance the needs of the community with the needs of environment. It’s pretty cool, pretty cool to be a part of that.”

After water is drawn from the river into the plant, the first step is to remove debris and large particles such as pine needles and dirt. After that, it goes through a membrane filtration that removes microscopic particles.

It then passes through a UV filter to eliminate micro-organisms, such as the pathogens that cause illnesses like beaver fever. After that, the final step is a chlorine disinfection. It’s then stored in two reservoirs, the Top Bridge and Springwood reservoirs. In the summer, senior water treatment plant operator Johnathan McLuskie estimates that the plant will filter between 10 million and 12 million litres of water per day.

It takes about six hours to treat the water after intake into the plant.

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