City seeks permission for emergency water project

The city and Harmac mill owners are working on a joint venture to ensure local residents have an emergency water supply in the event the current source, the south fork of the Nanaimo River, can no longer provide an adequate or safe supply.

If approved, the city and Nanaimo Forest Products would enter a 30-year agreement to have water pumped from the mill’s water source – the facility has its own dam, piping and water reserves from Fourth Lake – through a new $2.5-million pipeline and $3-million pump station in case of a water emergency.

Both parties would share the cost of the pipeline, which also benefits the mill, because its current pipeline is at the end of its useful life. The city would purchase the statutory right-of-way and pump station.

The pump station, which is included in the five-year financial plan, would be built in 2015 on mill property, while the pipeline could be connected as early as next year.

“We’re trying to be proactive,” said Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan. “With a single source of water we all rely on, it’s important to have a backup plan.”

The project will be subject to a public approval process, as loan terms would exceed five years.

If voters reject the project through an alternate approval process – accomplished if 6,268 or more response forms are submitted by Aug. 31 – approval could be sought through a referendum, likely tied to November’s municipal election.

Voters are also being asked to approve a plan by the city to borrow $22.5 million toward a new $65-million water filtration plant as mandated by Vancouver Island Health Authority. Both processes close on the same date.

If the plan is approved, untreated water would be pumped from the mill’s source as a backup to the city supply, at a cost of $3,920 per day at 37,850 litres per minute.

“There would be a boil-water advisory in effect because the water will not pass through the filtration plant and would therefore not pass acceptable potable water standards,” said Al Kenning, city manager. “But some water is better than no water.”

Should the mill require city water, it would be supplied at $9,452 per day at 37,850 litres per minute.

Coun. Bill Holdom said council hopes to build more partnerships with industry for the betterment of the entire community in the future.

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