The following account was compiled from information on the public record or freely available to enterprising residents.
The next to last item on the agenda for tonight’s June 4 Hudson council meeting — authorization for drilling piezometer – Wells 483, etc. — will mean nothing to most people. But for those following Hudson’s chronic water shortage saga, it’s confirmation of the latest failed attempt at finding a solution.
One of the last acts of the previous council was the approval of a $1.4 million loan bylaw to cover the cost of locating, authorizing, drilling and connecting a new well. At some point in the decision-making process, it was decided to concentrate the search for a new well in the same area of the Viviry Creek watershed where Hudson’s two producing wells are located.
Every step in that process was approved by council, beginning with $14,000 to consulting hydrogeologists Akifer to pinpoint the location of two drilling sites. Another $7,000 went to environmental consultants Sagie to steer the project through the environment ministry’s approval process. Another $36,500 went to Daoust for site preparation on a very short deadline, followed by $63,434 to Forage Samson, the winning bidder on the actual drilling of the wells.
Samson began drilling operations on Daoust’s temporary road below Hillcrest the third week in May. The contractor quickly concluded from core samples the site would not support a well capable of producing 600 gallons per minute on a sustainable basis. There was plenty of water starting at a depth of 150 feet— but the sand matrix was too fine and laden with silt to guarantee sustainability.
The best comparison is with a Slushie, those concoctions of sugar syrup and crushed ice consumed through a straw. If the ice is too coarse, you end up with a cupful of ice and no liquid. If the ice is too fine, it clogs the straw — essentially what happened with the nearby Bradbury well barely two years after it started pumping.
A second borehole confirmed Samson’s concerns. I have not seen the contractor’s drilling report but I strongly suspect it recommends against further drilling in the Viviry wetland because of the unsuitability of the water-bearing sand.
In other words, Hudson taxpayers paid in excess of $120,000 with nothing to show for it but another summer water ban.
What does Quebec have to say about the Town of Hudson’s annual well quest?
This morning I put that question to Hudson’s regional representative for the Sustainable Development, Environment and Fight Against Climate Change (MDDELCC).
“Every year, you spend more money and get no f**king results, just another interesting report,” he said. “When are you going to come to your senses, run a pipe into the lake and build yourself a treatment plant?”
With a provincial election this October and a federal election next fall, he added, there’s no better window of opportunity to pressure the politicians for subsidies. “Stop wasting time and taxpayer’s dollars!”
This evening’s Item 11.1 seeks council’s approval to conduct test drilling in one or more of the piezometers (test wells) surrounding Well #483, the town’s single major source of drinking water. I find it ironic that after all this time and expenditure on outside expertise, we’re considering a solution first suggested by former technical services director Trail Grubert some 10 years ago.
Hudson’s potable water system is supplied by four wells. They have a combined production capacity of 3,547 US gallons a minute. Each well’s health and productivity is monitored in real time by a system of piezometers, or test wells, located throughout the municipality and the results logged by municipal employees. Summer demand peaks at 4,750 GPM, representing a 30% shortfall and the reason behind the annual summer watering ban.
The two wells providing most of Hudson’s drinking water — #483 and Bradbury — are located in the wetlands along Viviry Creek. Well #483, Hudson’s equivalent of Old Faithful, began pumping in 1983. It replaced Well #2, located next to the Wellesley entrance to Bradbury Park.
Well #2 still produces, but was condemned on the advice of the environment ministry because its water exceeds provincial norms for iron, manganese and chlorides.
The Bradbury well, barely 10 years old, is producing at below its rated capacity despite repeated efforts to unclog its 60-foot intake screen. Had today’s well-sustainability technologies been in effect when it was drilled, it’s doubtful Bradbury would have ever been connected.
In the west end, two wells supply Hudson Valleys and Alstonvale. This system can be fed water via a connection at the top of Mount Victoria but isn’t configured or permitted to feed water to the town’s filtration plant and reservoir at the top of Fairhaven.
How critical is Hudson’s drinking water situation? Serious enough to question whether the town can guarantee a four-day supply for its 5,200 residents in the event of a failure of either of its two main wells. Until Hudson finds a sustainable long-term solution for its chronic water shortage, we can forget about future development.
Here’s what a consultative committee had to say on ensuring a sustainable water supply for Hudson’s future: Water: Hudson looks to the Ottawa (www.thousandlashes.ca, Sept. 6, 2017)
“You have two wells running continuously at maximum output,” a source familiar with Hudson’s chronic water shortage told me this week. “If anything goes wrong with either, it won’t just mean a watering ban. It’ll mean you won’t be able to flush your toilet.”
Hudson has known for five years it has a serious and deteriorating drinking water crisis on its hands. We have two wells running continuously at full capacity — 500,000 gallons per day. What’s the contingency plan in the event the unthinkable happens and either or both starts to fail?
Tonight, I’ll be voting against Item 11.1 because I see it as another example of improvisation, another waste of time and opportunity, another example of analysis paralysis at the hands of consulting firms. Enough!