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Water Today Title April 21, 2024

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First Nations Water

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WT staff

Phone interview with Vernon Copenace, O&M Manager, Washagamis Bay Water System. The transciption below has been edited for clarity and length.

WT - Thanks for doing this Vernon. So you got a new water plant, can you tell me how that worked?

Copenace - Within the last week, theyíve had it running for two weeks continuous, without any hiccups.

WT - Itís been up for two weeks, and its still up is it?

Copenace Ė Yes, so thatís what they need to do, otherwise if there was something that went wrong, they would have to restart the process for another two weeks. It has to run without any hassle, or without any problems. So thatís happening right now, its still running without any major alarms that go off in the water treatment plant.

WT - When do you get the final go ahead, how many days?

Copenace - We are just waiting on our environmental public health officer on our Chiefs Advisory to come and do the final tests.

WT - Thatís great news, have you been running pressure through all of the pipes so far?

Copenace Ė Yes, right now one of our interns is doing the final flushing, trying to get the chlorine level where it should be, in the line system.

WT - Interesting, in most interviews I do around long term BWAs, chlorine is an issue. Is chlorine in the water an issue in your community, or is it just a matter of dialing it in to what the Health Unit will be ok with?

Copenace - Well it takes a while to get the existing water that was in the pipes out, they did quite a bit of flushing. Thatís almost 2.5 km of line that they have to flush out.

First thing, the new part of the line, they had to flush that, and chlorinate it, inspect the lines. Now they went to the furthest part of the line, the rest of the line now is just to get the old water through and then our EHO said after the old water is out of the lines completely and they finish flushing, they can go to the next step, when they say its ready.

WT - Do you run fire hydrants on your drinking water system?

Copenace - Oh yes. From East to West yes, thatís what I mean flushing, its just like when there is a break.

WT - Are the people excited?

Copenace - Some are, and some donít trust it (chuckles). Its going to take a while before that happens.

WT - How long did the whole process of getting the plant in and finished take?

Copenace - Well, thereís been delays because of Covid. Initially we were supposed to have it done in March, from then on it was extended all the way to where we are now. Some new deadlines they had set up didnít pan out because some parts they ordered werenít right, so Covid and everything you know, itís hard when you are ordering stuff from the States, with Covid when you order something wrong, it takes longer.

WT : Do you have a water operator thatís ready to go, once the plant has been given permission from the Health Unit?

Copenace - Well thatís the issue again with COVID, thatís why we had the interns cleaning, and they have been extended also, with the testing, so now they are being extended to September, which they should have got their Class I certification already, thatís not happening until September now.

WT - So you might not have a water plant operator? When its ready to go, will there be a technician?

Copenace - Thatís why we have, in the north, we have technicians that serve our First Nation communities that are Class I and II.

WT - How would you rate this, a really good success, a sort of a success? or a pain? How would you mark this, are you happy with the whole process?

Copenace - Yes and no, I guess. If it had been done in March, there would have been an issue with frost in the ground. They still had to do landscaping, so Iím sure they would have had to come back and do that.

WT - Well for those that read WaterToday, Iím sure we all hope that you get up and running with no issues, that would be our hope. Have a good day and good luck.

Copenace - We will know more as soon as they start getting more results with the flushing and cleaning.

WT - Send us an email and let us know how it went we will add that to the story.


The saga of long-term water advisories in First Nations communities


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