City councillors surprised at poor shape of raw water pump house

By Charlene Tebbutt
October 31, 2018 - 1:11pm Updated: October 31, 2018 - 2:02pm

An aging structure with some portions nearly a century old, the city’s raw water pump house is in bad shape and local councillors are asking why they’re just hearing about it now.

Councillors expressed surprise at a recent executive committee meeting earlier this week at the state of the pump station as the city’s public works department presented an assessment of the facility, outlining various structural, mechanical and electrical issues. The current pump station was constructed in stages with the oldest portion dating back to 1920, Jeff Da Silva told council Monday, and is near the end of its lifespan.  

The pump station is located next to the city’s water treatment plant and draws raw water from the North Saskatchewan River for treatment before being distributed to homes and businesses throughout Prince Albert. Pictures shown to council this week show an aging facility with cracked and broken concrete, improper drainage, old ladders and a leaky roof. The current facility no longer meets Operational Health and Safety guidelines or National Building Code requirements, and lacks on-site controls, meaning staff have to radio back to the water treatment plant to coordinate maintenance and upkeep.

The cost to upgrade the current station is pegged at $4.85 million, Da Silva told council. The cost to build a new structure is around $4.54 million.

“It sees a lot of use and it’s showing its age,” Da Silva told council.

While council agreed something has to be done with the pump station, some expressed concern they hadn’t heard about the issue sooner. Ward 4 Councillor Don Cody said he is amazed the city put money into upgrading the water treatment plant and building a new reservoir rather than the badly-needed fixes to the pump station.

Cody said he isn’t suggesting engineers or consultants over the years haven’t given proper advice about the state of the facility, but said it was a surprise to hear the pump station is in such disrepair. Cody said he supports putting money toward ensuring Prince Albert has an adequate water supply, adding there may be grants available to help pay for the work.

“It makes a person wonder why when that whole project was being done that this wasn’t included, or at least earmarked,” Cody told paNOW. “How do you get water to the reservoir if you’ve got a pump house that isn’t going to be working, that might fall apart?”

Mayor Greg Dionne said many cities aren’t good at planning for capital projects such as a new water pump house. But, speaking to media after Monday’s executive committee meeting, Dionne said the 2016 water crisis showed having a functioning water treatment plant is important as well.

Finding funding for the pump house is a priority for the city, Dionne added.

“If we had a five-year capital plan, we might have done that pump house before we did the water reservoir,” Dionne added. “The key about debt is being able to manage it [and] we’re managing very well, we have one of the lowest debt ratios of all the cities in the province and we don’t want to grow that any more than we have to.”

 

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On Twitter: @CharleneTebbutt

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