Safety is top of mind this year for one Pincher Creek infrastructure project.
The town is looking to launch a major project later this year that would see a safer chemical used in the disinfection process at the water treatment plant.
Since it opened in 1991, the plant has been using chlorine gas, a compound considered harmful to human health when released into the air, which could pose problems in the event of a leak, but proposed changes would see sodium hypochlorite introduced as an alternative.
“Technology has changed in the last 30 years so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t look at these new technologies,” says Alexa Levair, manager of operations and infrastructure.
“It really isn’t that new and has been tried and true in many other water treatment plants. It’s a great time, since the system needed to be upgraded anyways, to look at these improvements.”
Unlike its predecessor, sodium hypochlorite takes chlorine from a salt compound, eliminating the need for gas. It can either be delivered to the site in liquid or tablet form or generated on-site.
Levair is leaning toward the latter method.
“The on-site generation is more expensive upfront but the annual operating costs are significantly less, so we see a better return on investment in a shorter period of time if we actually pay the upfront amount for the on-site generation,” she says.
Council has sent an application for grant funding and is anticipating a response by late spring. If approved, the town would pay around 48 per cent of costs and the rest would come from grant money by way of the Alberta Municipal Water/Wastewater Partnership.
Estimates place the total cost at $442,000 although Levair says they’ll probably need only $350,000, the rest serving as contingency money.
There have been no major upgrades to the plant since it was built and its equipment is old, a driving factor behind switching to safer methods.
Although highly unlikely, gas cylinders can rupture as they age, which could lead to chlorine escaping into the air, Levair says, and with houses located downwind of the plant, any airborne substances would travel far and affect town residents.
It makes more sense to invest in new technology than to pay to repair old technology that would not be safe in the event of an incident, she says.
“We really don’t wanna be stuck in that rut of, well we’ve always done it this way, so replace it with what it was before.”
Gillian Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze