Sooner or later, Hudson and its neighbours will be forced to draw their drinking water from the Lake of Two Mountains, residents were told at last night’s presentation of a status report on the town’s chronic water shortage.
Until a regional cost-sharing agreement is reached on the construction and operation of a $12-$15M filtration plant, Hudson has no other choice but to spend $1.3M to sink another well as quickly as possible to meet a 30% peak-demand shortfall.
The bleak assessment as well as immediate and long-term solutions were the work of the Citizens Action Group on Infrastructure, one of several advisory committees created by mayor Ed Prévost.
“We’re not looking for a divine solution,” chairman and District 2 councillor Ron Goldenberg said in his introduction to the briefing prior to the monthly council meeting. “We’re looking for a practical solution.”
Emphasizing the non-partisan urgency of Hudson’s looming water crisis was the presence on the committee of Jacques Bourgeois, the unsuccessful 2013 mayoral candidate. Bourgeois’s consulting group helped design and install Hudson’s aqueduct and sewage treatment systems and he has worked with municipalities in Quebec and Ontario in addressing potable-water issues.
In describing the situation he didn’t hold back. “The alarm bells are going off everywhere.”
Highlights of Bourgeois’s technical briefing:
– Only 10% of the precipitation falling on the region feeds the aquifers from which close to 100,000 Vaudreuil-Soulanges residents get their water. 70% is lost to evaporation. 20% is lost to runoff. Runoff is increasing due to development. Less retention means less water percolating, or making its way into the water table.
— Precipitation is less dependable. Precipitation maximums and minimums are less consistent. Example: the 100% swing in precipitation from 2015 to 2016.
— Hudson’s four main wells (Wellesley A, Bradbury, Hudson Valleys and Alstonvale) have a combined production capacity of 3,547 US gallons a minute. Demand peaks at 4,750, representing a 30% shortfall. The Bradbury, less than 10 years old, is producing at below rated capacity and requires remediation.
— Human water consumption averages a cubic metre a day, or 254 US gallons. The treatment and storage capacity of the Woodland waterworks will be exceeded once Hudson’s population hits 6,530 (current pop. 5,135.) New development already approved in the town’s draft conservation plan would raise the town’s population close to capacity.
The committee’s recommended short-term solution: a new well in the Viviry watershed. The aquifer will support a new well. The infrastructure and expertise are already in place, several potential sites have been identified, the expenditure is already planned in the town’s PTI and provincial approval would be expedient given the urgency.
The added capacity would allow replenishment of the reservoir at night, when demand is lower, thus retaining water levels adequate to meet peak daytime demand and firefighting requirements.
The long-term solution would be a new treatment plant allowing the town to draw water from the Ottawa River as do many other Quebec and Ontario municipalities, Bourgeois continued. The river provides stable quality, a reliable, easy-to-manage source. The main drawback is cost. A facility capable of providing 10-15,000 cubic metres/day would cost $12-$15M to build and $400,000 a year to operate. This explains why the capital and operating costs of waterfront treatment facilities are usually shared by three to seven municipalities.
Rigaud, St. Lazare and Vaudreuil-Dorion all have potable-water supply issues, Bourgeois noted. Rigaud has already expressed interest, he added. His proposed critical path for this and future councils:
– Proceed as soon as possible with the new well;
– Mandate a steering committee to oversee short and long-term solutions;
– Commission a detailed feasibility study on a lakeside treatment plant.
Questions ranged from whether it would be cheaper to cap Hudson’s population, to how much water is lost due to leaks (5%, said technical services director Paul Boudreau, while Austin Rikley-Krindle cited a paper suggesting it’s closer to 18%). Concern was expressed over drawing water from a river into which hundreds of municipalities dump treated and untreated sewage amid growing evidence that micro-contaminants such as excreted prescription drugs pose a potentially serious health risk.
The briefing marked a a turning point, both for this administration and for how the town is addressing a serious issue without delving into the rancorous partisanship hallmarking the last four years. Bourgeois prefaced his technical briefing by noting the group had consulted with former technical services director Trail Grubert, whose post-retirement severance and pension fight with the Prévost administration ended up in court.
The committee’s makeup (Goldenberg, Bourgeois, Bill Nash, Marcus Owen, Betsy Stewart, David Warne, with Boudreau and grant writer/waterworks technician Simon Corriveau) implies this isn’t going to be an issue that fades after the Nov. 5 elections. Nash is a mayoral candidate. Owen is attending MRC meetings.
Prior to the briefing I asked Goldenberg how he got along with Bourgeois. “I don’t get a warm and fuzzy feeling, but Jacques knows the water file like no one else and knows how to work,” he told me. Others told me there was council resistance to Bourgeois and Grubert, echoes of Prévost’s blanket rejection of anyone who had worked for the town prior to his election.
Twenty years ago, I wrote what would become the first of an endless series of articles and columns in the Hudson Gazette explaining why Hudson would be pulling water from the Ottawa some day. I was called a fool and worse by people who had no clue what they were talking about. How do I feel now? Vindicated — and awed by the enormity of the task of making it happen. Thanks to all who enabled this discussion to take a great leap forward last evening.