NIAGARA REGION DRINKING WATER
Niagara Region has six conventional water treatment plants. The water is treated and distributed to 11 local area municipalities
We sent Saguenay media a series of email questions. The answers below in French and English( italics) were provided by Dominic Arseneau
WT: Can you describe the drinking water system in your city/town, (distribution watermains, treatment plant, users, etc.) and the main challenges it faces?
Niagara Region has six conventional water treatment plants ranging in capacity from 45 ML/d to 220 ML/d. The water is treated and distributed to 11 local area municipalities through our 5 trunk distribution systems that consist of 21 remote water storage facilities, 7 dedicated chlorine facilities and water pumping stations, and 312 kilometres of trunk water mains. The municipalities that receive bulk treated water from our systems are the City of Niagara Falls, the City of St. Catharines, the City of Welland, Town of Fort Erie, City of Thorold, Town of Lincoln, Town of Grimsby, Town of Pelham, Town of West Lincoln, Town of Niagara-On-the-Lake, and the City of Port Colborne. Our water systems service our diverse geographical area and our population of around 460,000 residents.
Our only recent challenge from a treatment perspective is dealing with emerging issues such as potential Harmful Algal Blooms. Niagara Region has a robust Harmful Algal Bloom Response Procedure should a major bloom occur.
WT: What is the source of drinking water?
All of our facilities are surface water treatment plants drawing water from the Great Lakes. 5 plants draw water from Lake Erie and 1 draws water from Lake Ontario.
WT: Do the plants have any treatment for emerging contaminants such as PFAS, and endocrine disrupters?
Yes, all of our water treatment plants use Granular Activated Carbon for filtration media which is very effective at removing dissolved organic compounds as well as taste and odour-causing compounds.
WT: With the increase in extreme weather events and flooding, what measures is the city taking to protect its plants?
The flows to the wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) vary with increasing wet weather events due to varying amounts of inflow and infiltration (I&I) in the wastewater collection system. This I&I allows wet weather to enter the collection system. The local municipalities in Niagara individually conduct studies aimed at reducing the impact of wet weather both by separating stormwater from sanitary wastewater and by keeping their collection systems in a state of good repair to minimize the amount of I&I entering the wastewater systems. The Region, in turn, has its own program that funds improvements to the local collection systems and this funding is available to them for these kinds of projects. The most recent activity being embarked upon municipally is pre and post-development wastewater monitoring to ensure that sewers in new developments are constructed as “water-tight” as possible to stop inflow and infiltration before it starts.
WT: Combined sewage overflows (CSO) are a common problem in cities across Canada. What is the situation in your city?
Niagara has a combined sewer overflow mitigation strategy in place to reduce combined sewer overflows. This mitigation involves the use of CSO tanks, over-sized pumping at sewage pumping stations and high-rate treatment facilities that are designed to either retain as much wet weather flow as possible and direct it for full treatment or provide partial treatment to combined sewage prior to discharge to the environment. The Region also funds local municipal CSO initiatives as mentioned previously.
WT: What was the amount of CSO in recent years?
It’s important to keep perspective on the volume of CSO. Over the last three years, the average flow of wastewater treated in Niagara was 72,670 million litres (72.670 billion litres). Approximately 1.81% of the flow does not receive full treatment. In other words, over 98% of the flow to the plants is fully treated. Niagara endeavours to reduce the amount of wastewater that does not receive full treatment.
WT: Lead connections are also a common problem, how many lead connections do you estimate there are in your system? What is the city doing about it?
Lead service connections would fall under the jurisdiction of our local area municipalities. Several of them have lead service line replacement programs.
WT: Are there other emerging issues, particular to your city/town, you are looking into?
As with most municipalities, funding for infrastructure replacement is always a challenge. The cost of water and wastewater treatment is increasing due to increases in fuel and treatment chemicals as a result of inflation and pandemic-related supply-chain issues. These costs are borne initially by the Region but impact the rates charged for water and wastewater treatment to the local municipalities. This in turn increases costs to the local rate-payers.