April 12, 2018

Extra $604,000 for Town of Erin well drilling

The search for new municipal water just got a lot more expensive, with Erin town council allocating up to $604,000 for at least two more wells.
Exploratory drilling and testing at two sites, as part of the Water Servicing Environmental Assessment (EA), has been a disappointment for the town. Sufficient water flow was not found at the existing Hillsburgh fire hall well or the Mountainview site on Kenneth Ave.
The search will now be expanded, with four potential sites in Hillsburgh and four in Erin village, most owned by developers. All the sites are in the Credit River watershed, (while the existing Nestlé well is in the Grand River watershed).
When the Water EA (separate from the Wastewater EA) was started in 2015, it was based on the projection that the urban population would grow from 4,500 to 6,000. That would have required one new well in Hillsburgh and one or two for Erin village.
With a new projection of 14,599 urban residents within about 25 years, Hillsburgh will eventually need two more wells and Erin village up to five more, according to a report by town engineer Christine Furlong of Triton Engineering.
 “It’s almost like a Catch-22 – if we don’t go ahead with the sewage treatment, we don’t get the population that needs the water,” said Coun. John Brennan, asking if the drilling can be done in phases. “$604,000 is a big pill to swallow.”
 “I hate spending money on the flip of a coin,” said Coun. Matt Sammut, while Mayor Allan Alls said, “This is something we have to do.” All members voted in favour.
The allocation of funds approved on April 3 will not directly affect water rates, since the money will be taken from the Water Life Cycle Reserve and the Water Development Charges account.
The town originally allocated $404,580 to the Water EA, and $215,496 remains unspent. Those funds will be used prior to the $604,000.
Furlong estimated that 90 per cent of the well costs could be recovered through targeted development charges, without reducing other development revenue.
She said the work would proceed in stages, each to be approved by town staff.  Once preliminary drilling confirms adequate water flow, development of the well to production status could be done later. 
A single well can cost over $300,000 because of requirements for extensive water testing, an archaeological investigation, a cultural heritage evaluation and a natural environment inventory and assessment.
One less well would be needed if the two village systems were connected, an option that is under study. Furlong also reminded council that more wells are needed for the existing water system, even if there were to be no growth.
Erin currently operates its water system with two wells in Hillsburgh and two in Erin village. The province requires the town to develop an additional well for each community to provide redundancy (back-up) in case of failure or contamination at an existing well.
Hydrogeologist Andrew Pentney of Groundwater Science Corp. (who has taken over from Ray Blackport) told council that the amount of money being spent on the water search is typical of that spent by other municipalities.
He said it is “not uncommon” to find insufficient water flow at a specific test site, but expressed confidence that the problem is not lack of groundwater in the area.
“The water is out there,” he said.