New Brunswick

Moncton lays groundwork to deal with cyanobacteria in water supply

Moncton plans to spend $6 million this winter to upgrade its water treatment plant, the first phase of a plan to address blue-green algae in the municipal water supply.

City plans to spend about $6 million on upgrades at its water treatment plant this winter

Jack MacDonald, Moncton's general manager of engineering and environmental services, says the water treatment plant currently lacks the ability to eliminate blue-green algae. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Moncton plans to spend $6 million this winter to upgrade its water treatment plant, the first phase of a plan to deal with cyanobacteria in the municipal water supply.

Cyanobacteria was found in 2017 in the Turtle Creek watershed, the drinking water source for Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview. Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, can form blooms and produce toxins harmful to humans and animals.

The water remains safe to drink and the multimillion dollar upgrades are meant to keep it that way. 

Jack MacDonald, the city's general manager of engineering and environmental services, said the water treatment plant lacks the ability to remove cyanobacteria material and toxins.

"We've been lucky this year with respect to an algae bloom," MacDonald told Moncton council on Tuesday. "We haven't had one so far. Keep our fingers crossed that we don't between now and the end of the year."

The water treatment plant southwest of Riverview is owned by Moncton and privately operated by Veolia Canada Ltd. Council approved a five-year extension of its contract with Veolia earlier this year.

On Tuesday, Moncton council unanimously approved a sole-source contract with CBCL Limited worth $820,736. The Halifax-based engineering and environmental consulting firm will design the first phase of work at the plant and provide construction project management. 

A separate council vote will take place in the future for a construction contract, MacDonald said.  

On Friday, the federal and provincial governments announced funding for the first phase. The federal government will pay $2.4 million, the province $1.9 million and the city $1.6 million.

Moncton's water treatment plant is expected to undergo upgrades estimated to cost $27 million. (City of Moncton)

The work this winter will involve replacing four water clarifiers used to remove particles. They will be replaced with a dissolved air flotation system. MacDonald said bubbles in the water will bring the algae material to the surface where it will be skimmed off. 

One clarifier will be replaced at a time, cutting the plant's treatment capacity by a quarter. The work will be done over the winter when water use is lowest.

A second phase, with an estimated cost of $21 million, will add the ability to remove the toxins from the water. MacDonald said the second phase is expected to be completed over the winter in 2021-22 and planning is already underway. The contract council approved Tuesday only covers the first phase of design work.

Other options more expensive

MacDonald said the next cheapest option had an estimated cost of $42 million.

A blue-green algae bloom was found in the Tower Road Reservoir in September 2017.

The reservoir, completed in 2014 and serving as a back-up water supply, flows into the lower Turtle Creek Reservoir and onto the treatment plant. 

Algae was found in both reservoirs in 2018, though no blooms were found. Heather Fraser, Moncton's natural resource program co-ordinator, last month told CBC there weren't any issues at the reservoirs this summer.

Moncton's Tower Road dam, one of two of the city's drinking water reservoirs in the Turtle Creek area. (Shane Magee/CBC News)

Moncton awarded the contract to CBCL without a competitive bidding process.

The value of the design work contract is such that under the Canadian-European Trade Agreement and Canadian Free Trade Agreement, it should have been subject to a competitive process. A city staff report says that was avoided by using exemptions for human health and intellectual property.

MacDonald said a competitive process would have delayed the work by two or three months. He expressed confidence in CBCL's technical expertise. 

"We went this route because we are fast tracking this plant modification," MacDonald said. 

About the Author

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC.

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