City unveils new UV water treatment plant

If you live in Port Alberni, you can be assured that the water coming out of your tap is cleaner these days.

City engineer Guy Cicon pours Port Alberni Mayor Mike Ruttan a glass of water treated by the UV system in the new Bainbridge water treatment plant.

If you live in Port Alberni, you can be assured that the water coming out of your tap is cleaner these days—if not a whole lot different to drink, according city engineer Guy Cicon.

And it’s all because of the new water treatment plant at Bainbridge, which officially opened last Wednesday.

(Want to read all about the new treatment plant’s green design? Click here.)

“It’s a project that we’ve had underway for a number of years and we’re excited to have this grand opening here today,” Cicon said.

The impetus for the construction of the new facility was the new 4-3-2-1-0 water quality objectives that all municipalities in Canada are mandated to follow.

According to Island Health, two forms of disinfection are required for drinking water sources—typically chlorine and ultraviolet (UV) light disinfection.

The city has a filtration waiver due to a redundant water system that allows them to switch from their primary intake at China Creek to their secondary intake at Bainbridge Lake if turbidity gets too high.

Cicon said that while residents won’t taste a difference in their water quality (anyone on the city water system has been drinking UV treated water throughout the fall), they can be assured that their water is more pristine than ever.

“This is definitely a facility that we’re proud of and it’s got built in flexibility, which we need,” said Mayor Mike Ruttan.

City utilities superintendent Brian Mousley said that another UV reactor could be added to the three currently built if the increased capacity was necessary.

“Each of those three reactors has 40 UV lights,” said Koers and Associates principal engineer Chris Downey.

“Water passes through them at a flow rate of roughly 120-150 metres per second. Once the water has left the UV reactors, all of the water has been sterilized through UV radiation.”

The city has also switched to hypochlorite instead of chlorine gas.

“We’ve gone from the gas to the salt system of chlorine,” he said.

“The advantage of that is that it’s much less hazardous to the environment and the operators don’t have to work around chlorine gas.”

Ruttan said that the new water treatment plant was an important step in keeping the city’s infrastructure up to date.

“Water defines our city. It’s our history and our future. It’s essential, it’s powerful, it’s precious and it’s something we can’t take for granted,” he said.

“Standing in this new $4 million facility is testament to the value that we place on our water resources.”

Cicon said that the new treatment plant wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of contractors like Windley Contracting and Koers Engineering and Associates.

“They all played a very important role in the development of this project,” he said.

He also thanked city water crews, adding that their help was essential in both designing the new treatment plant and keeping the old one running during the transition.

“They were involved with the design of the new plant and most importantly, in keeping the existing plant open while we were building this new one.”

City utilities technologist Bert Polles said that while  the old chlorine treatment facility and pump house that the city utilized will be kept as a backup, at least for the first year of operation for the new facility.

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