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Powerhouse water wells need refit; pumps too strong

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There's a problem with Squamish's primary water source and the cost to right the situation is expected to be $189,172.

District of Squamish (DOS) Council voted to spend the money to make what DOS staff call "amendments" to the existing wells at Powerhouse Springs.

As well, lawmakers voted to spend another $10,000 to hire an independent third party to review the findings and recommendations made by the district's consultants.

The pumps used to bring the water up from the wells in the Powerhouse area have to be refitted more often than expected and the refit work costs between $50,000 and $60,000.

The first well came online in August 2000 with the other two following in June 2002.

Two of the wells are serviced by 100 horsepower pumps and a third has a 75 hp pump. According to Mick Gottardi, the DOS director of community development, the powerful pumps are shutting on and off frequently. The sands at the well heads are shifting due to the aggressive pump action and that is the pumping capacity to drop.

Gottardi recommends replacing one of the pumps with a variable speed pump and replace the two 100 hp pumps with 40 hp pumps. He further recommends converting a test well to a service well to make up for the reduced pumping power by converting to smaller pumps.

According to a report from Gottardi, making the changes will give the DOS sustainable operating conditions at the Powerhouse Springs.

When the local demand for water can't be handled by the wells at Powerhouse Springs surface water from the Stawamus River and Mashiter Creek is collected and pumped into the drinking water system. The surface water is prone to turbidity and sometimes requires boiling before people can consume it.

Not all the members of council supported the plan because it means the company that installed the system will be paid $36,000 to manage the changes.

Coun. Raj Kahlon said he can't support the idea of paying the original consultants even more money.

"Why give these guys who created the system more money to fix the flawed system they built for us?" asked Kahlon.

Coun. Corinne Lonsdale agreed with Kahlon, adding she's concerned that the district is allowing too many big projects to be awarded to contractors without a competitive bid process.

"It is wrong not to look for the best deal for the District of Squamish," said Lonsdale., who wondered why the $10,000 can't be spent ahead of the larger amount.

"If we wait there will be another boil water advisory, maybe two or three even," said Mayor Ian Sutherland. "We all know how the phone rings when a boil water advisory is in place."

Gottardi informed the lawmakers that the $10,000 for the independent review will investigate the district's long-term water needs and determine if the problems experienced at the wells could have been foreseen.

Kahlon and Lonsdale voted against the plan to handle the problem, while the rest of council voted in favour.

Through the discussion the mayor stressed that the problem with the well system is not a panic situation.

"No one is at risk," he said.

jfrench@squamishchief.com

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