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Water Today Title February 21, 2024

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Café William


The cultural capital of the Yukon, home of the Klondike Gold Rush and the heart of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Traditional Territory is also home to a state-of-the-art water treatment plant.

Dawson City’s water treatment plant (completed in 2019) uses renewable energy for heating and power. As the largest facility in Western Canada, with cartridge filtration, it provides robust treatment for a community of 2000 that doubles in size during the summer tourist season. The facility’s landmark architecture reflects the town’s character and history.- Photo Courtesy AE Engineering

WATERTODAY reached out to Marc Richard, Supervisor of Utilities and Chief Operator for some insights.

WT: What is the source of Dawson City’s drinking water? How many people are served?

Richard: The source of our raw water is 4 wells. These wells are all 70 feet deep and are considered “GUDI” (Groundwater Under Direct Influence of surface water – lakes, rivers, streams) which may be subject to contamination.

We serve 2000 people in the winter and as a tourist town that jumps up to 3000 to 3500 in the summer.

WT: There was a great deal of consideration and planning involved with the newly constructed Water Treatment Plant completed in 2019. In your opinion what was the biggest challenge for those of you in the WTP?

Richard: The biggest challenge was the civil piping involved with the project. We had to run our old plant across the street during construction. The street in front of the plant is quite congested with piping, and the available space on the site of the plant also was part of the challenge.

WT: Please briefly outline the water treatment system.

Richard: Water is pumped from our wells, sequenced 1 & 3 and 2 & 4. The wells are turned on by a level in the reservoirs determined by the operator.

The water is then pumped into the plant through a raw water flow meter, and then through a set of filter banks. The first 3 are 5 microns, and the next set of 3 is 1 micron absolute.

The water then exits the filter banks and goes through one of 2 UV reactors.

Following that, it is chlorinated and flows into our small reservoir. From the small reservoir, the water goes to our large reservoir, where our contact time is achieved.

From the large reservoir, the water then returns to the WTP by gravity and through our distribution pumps; through a distribution flow meter and out to the distribution system

WT: It is a harsh climate in the winter – what mitigation procedures are in place?

Richard: We get extremely cold weather here for lengthy periods of time. This poses an extremely elevated risk of freezing.

We mitigate this risk a couple of ways.

  • By heating our drinking water through a series of heat exchangers at the WTP. We heat the water up to 5.5 degrees (At the coldest our water can reach .8 degrees C.)
  • We have the ability to heat the raw water as it goes into the reservoir and to heat the water as it enters the distribution system.
  • Circulation and bleeding are other means of freeze protection. All residential and most commercial buildings have a bleeder line on their water service which constantly bleeds treated water into the sewer system.
  • We also have six loops in our system. During the winter, these loops circulate in one direction and return through our low-pressure return line and back to the plant and through the distribution system. In the summer months, this return line is pressurized and the system is charged from both directions. We do have 4 dead ends on the end of our loops. These dead ends have bleeders on them and bleed into the collection system

WT: Are PFAS or other contaminants of concern an issue?

Richard: In the spring, with high water, we do get hits of total coliforms in our raw water. These bacteria have never been present in our treated water or distribution system.

WT: Any other challenges?

Richard: Freeze protection is our biggest challenge. Other challenges come with living in a remote area. Spare parts are one thing that is always a concern. As operators, we need to maintain “critical spare parts” as parts are not readily available.

WT: Do you provide tours of the facility? Any educational resources for school kids?

Richard: We do offer tours to anyone interested. We have had a few tours come through the plant in the last two years. Grade Two from the school came through on a tour in 2019 after the plant came online.

WT: In many cities, finding qualified water operators is an issue. Is this also a problem for Dawson city? What would you say to someone considering a career in the Water Department?

Richard: We are fortunate here. We have a small crew of four operators – two have over twenty years with the City. I am in my twelfth year and our fourth operator has been here for six years. Three of us have our Level 2 Water Treatment, which is the classification of the plant and our fourth is working hours to be able to write his Level 2.

I would recommend a career in water treatment. I enjoy the work that comes along with it. We are fortunate here in a small town. We look after the treatment plant, the wastewater collection system, and the water distribution system. As they say, ‘variety is the spice of life’!

WT: One last drop...Please leave our viewers with something to think about.

Richard: When you open your tap, think about the clean potable water that comes out. There are many people in the world – and even in Canada-- that do not have access to safe quality drinking water.