Bill Sims, city director of public works and engineering, is asking the public to restrict water use to an absolute minimum as the city attempts to get the South Fork Water Treatment Plant back in operation following power failures and control system malfunctions caused by Thursday’s wind storm.                                CHRIS BUSH/ The News Bulletin

Bill Sims, city director of public works and engineering, is asking the public to restrict water use to an absolute minimum as the city attempts to get the South Fork Water Treatment Plant back in operation following power failures and control system malfunctions caused by Thursday’s wind storm. CHRIS BUSH/ The News Bulletin

UPDATE: Water treatment plant has power, but city still asking for conservation

South Fork Water Treatment Plant experienced control system malfunction

City water is safe to drink, but residents are being asked to cut on all water water use, even baths and showers to prevent supplies from running short due to a control system malfunction at Nanaimo’s South Fork Water Treatment Plant.

The plant, which supplies most of Nanaimo’s potable water, lost electrical power when trees fell on power lines during Thursday’s storm. Power has been restored, but the plant has not come back to full operating capacity.

“The water is safe to drink. Let me make that perfectly clear,” said Bill Sims, city director of public works and engineering, at a press conference Friday. “What we are asking people to do is to stop consuming. No laundry. If it’s yellow let it mellow. If it’s brown flush it down. No showers. No baths. As much as possible, constrain water use.”

Sims said the city’s potable water reservoirs are estimated at about 65 per cent of normal and the city is asking the public to not use water for laundry or other uses that aren’t absolutely necessary until problems at the plant are corrected. The “million-dollar question,” Sims said, is how long it will take to correct the malfunction.

“We’re working extremely hard to try and troubleshoot the issues. We’re looking at bringing in some outside help, as well, but we do not know. We have no estimated time as to when the magic switch is going to go,” he said.

The city said this is not the first time the plant has dealt with power failures, but it is the first time a power failure appears to have triggered multiple malfunctions throughout the plant’s control systems.

The problem lies with a fail-safe program built into the plant’s water filtration control system. The plant’s filters need to be flushed periodically to function properly, but there is a function within the flushing system that shuts down the cleaning system if it senses a condition that would damage the filters, which is preventing the plant’s purification process from restarting.

Sims said the system is not running out of water, but supplies must be preserved for firefighting purposes and other essential uses so residents and businesses should not use water until further notice.

Meanwhile the city is working to come up with a contingency plan in the event the plant can’t be brought back online before water supplies run low.

Arenas and pools are closed.

The city will provide updates to the public as they become available.

RELATED: More than 90,000 remain without power on Vancouver Island

RELATED: Tree nearly splits Parksville home in half during windstorm

RELATED: Winds whip up havoc across Nanaimo region


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Scott Saywell, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ superintendent and CEO, has seen his contract renewed for four years, the district announced Wednesday. (SD68 YouTube screenshot)
Nanaimo school district renews superintendent’s contract for four years

‘Singing superintendent’ Scott Saywell under contract through 2024-25 school year

Cyclists pick up swag and cycling trail maps at city Bike to Work Week ‘celebration station’ a few years ago. (News Bulletin file photo)
City of Nanaimo’s active transportation plan will be about more than infrastructure

City working on goals to double walking trips and quintuple cycling and busing trips

Nanaimo RCMP seek public assistance after numerous tire slashings between Jan. 12-14. (News Bulletin file)
20 tires punctured in ‘slashing spree’ in Nanaimo

Nanaimo RCMP ask for any tips about Jan. 12-14 incidents in Country Club and Boxwood areas

Kinsmen Participark in Beban Park will be closed next week so city workers can remove dangerous trees and invasive plant species. The work is the start of an improvement project that includes replacing signs and fitness stations in the spring. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo fitness park to close for removal of hazard trees and invasive plants

Tree cutting to start in Beban Park’s Kinsmen Participark as part of improvement project

Police hope to find the owners of two canoes found at Descanso Bay on Gabriola Island. (Photo submitted)
RCMP seek owners of canoes found on Gabriola Island that possibly came from Nanaimo

Two older canoes, found by police at Descanso Bay, could have washed ashore with recent storms

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Dr. Shannon Waters, the medical health officer for the Cowichan Valley Region, is reminding people to stay the course with COVID-19 measures. (File photo)
‘Stay the course’ with COVID measures, Island Health reminds

Limit social activity, wash hands, wear a mask, and isolate if you feel sick

Cowichan Tribes members line up at a drive-up clinic on Wednesday, Jan. 13 to receive the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the region. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
BCAFN condems racism against Cowichan Tribes after COVID-19 outbreak

“Any one of us could do everything right and still catch the virus”: Regional Chief Terry Teegee.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Nursing staff at West Coast General Hospital celebrate the announcement of a $6.25-million expansion of the emergency department that will start in March 2021. (File photo)
B.C. health ministry commits $6.25M to hospital expansion in Port Alberni

Plans for larger emergency department have been on hold since 2015

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government announces creation of B.C.’s first anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Black Press media file
Port McNeill driver tells police he thought the pandemic meant no breathalyzers

Suspect facing criminal charges after breathalyzer readings in excess of 3.5 times the legal limit

Most Read