Water Flows at New Plant
By JONATHAN WILSON
With the waves of Lake Superior quietly lapping against the shore nearby, Thunder Bay officials turned the tap and drank a toast to the new filtration plant which will soon provide the entire city with world-class drinking water.
“This is a huge day,” Mayor Lynn Peterson said at the plant‘s official opening Friday.
“The water that we‘re actually drinking and coming through our taps is probably, bar none, the safest in Canada.”
Peterson joined waterworks staff and provincial and federal politicians in turning a ceremonial tap in front of the $48-million facility. Then, they all drank a glass of the plant‘s membrane-filtered water.
Darrell Matson, the city‘s manager of transportation and works, said Thunder Bay has come a long way from the first waterworks system installed in Fort William in 1896.
“This is a great morning for Thunder Bay,” Matson said.
“In front of you today stands a state-of-the-art, ultra-membrane filtration water treatment plant that we can all take great pride in.”
The original Bare Point treatment plant was built in 1903, and was added on to in 1978 to produce 14 million gallons of water a day.
The new plant and filtration system can handle about 25 million gallons of water a day. The system uses Zeeweed 1000 membranes, which are essentially long, thin flexible straws that suck up the water, then force it through very small holes in the straws to filter it.
Earth Tech engineering consultant David Lampman and North America Construction representative Frank Daniele presented the mayor with a metal plaque commemorating the completion of the project.
Several speakers at Friday‘s ceremony noted the decade-long debates and decisions to move to a single water source at Bare Point, and abandon the Loch Lomond water supply.
“Has this been a long project in the works or what?” asked MP and former mayor Ken Boshcoff, with a laugh.
“It really is wonderful to see the conclusion.”
Several speakers, including Peterson, Lampman and MPPs Bill Mauro and Michael Gravelle took time to credit former city engineer Doug Scott for moving the single-source water system forward over the past decade.
Scott passed away in February. His widow Marg attended Friday‘s ceremony, which included a plaque naming the plant‘s boardroom in Scott‘s honour.
“Doug was a great champion of this project, and where we are today,” Mauro said.
Gravelle told Marg Scott he could see Doug “smiling down at us now,” and also credited city councils past and present for bringing clean drinking water to the residents of the city.
“This was a very, very difficult and challenging situation,” Gravelle said, “and I believe it took some real political courage to move this forward to the point we are today.”
City engineering manager Pat Mauro said the new water filtration system has been operating since late April, for testing and commissioning purposes.
The city is now developing a decommissioning plan for Loch Lomond, which continues to provide drinking water to about 17 percent of the residents of Thunder Bay.
“We hope to close the Loch Lomond plant by the end of 2007,” Mauro said.
“It gives us some time to ensure that Bare Point is functioning properly.”
Mauro said the Fort William First Nation hasn‘t yet decided whether to continue using Loch Lomond for drinking water or use the Bare Point supply.The city is working with the band on a business case for using Loch‘s water for other uses, such as hydro generation.