PEI

Wrong parts and burned-out motors: Problems plaguing new Charlottetown well field

Nine-months after Charlottetown officially opened its new well field in Miltonvale Park, it's still pumping out little water.

Well field in Miltonvale Park pumping little water, 9 months after official opening

Contractors were busy digging holes at the Miltonvale Park pumping sites Tuesday, to make way for new electrical filters. The city says it hopes to finally have the well field fully operational 'within the month.' (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Nine months after Charlottetown officially opened its new well field in Miltonvale Park, there's still little water being pumped from the site. 

The $8 million well field was supposed to increase the city's water capacity by 25 per cent, and ease the demand on the Winter River watershed, and its three well fields. 

But Richard MacEwen, the manager of Charlottetown's water and sewer utility, said various "challenges" have prevented the city from getting the well field operating properly. 

"[We use it] very sparingly. We operate it now one day per week, just to make sure water is moving through the system and through our new reservoirs," MacEwen said. "With any project, there's always struggles and learning opportunities, and that's what we're faced with."

Richard MacEwen, the manager of Charlottetown's water and sewer utility, says multiple 'challenges' have prevented the new well field from operating at capacity. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The Winter River-Tracadie Bay Watershed Association raised concerns in July that the new well field was doing little to ease the demand on the river.

At the time, MacEwen explained that the city had ordered in a wrong part and run into a few other snags that prevented the well field from running seven days a week. 

He said the city hoped to have it running at capacity by the end of August. 

'We burned out motors'

But MacEwen said just days after the city did get the pumps running, it quickly ran into another problem that still hasn't been solved. 

"We lost some of our pump motors. They're down in the wells, and we burned out motors in a very short period of time.  Motors that should last at least 15 years failed within a few days," he explained. 

For the past year and a bit, it's been "oh, it will be online in about a month."- Sarah Wheatley, Winter River-Tracadie Bay Watershed Association

According to MacEwen, necessary electrical filters hadn't been installed, which caused the motors to burn out.  He says it's not totally clear who is to blame for the error. 

"It wasn't anticipated we'd need these extra filters. It tends to be on wells that are thousands of feet deep, where ours are only a couple of hundred," he said. 

Watershed growing more impatient 

He said the new filters finally came in this week.  The hope is to have them installed and the well field finally operating at capacity "within a month."

Sarah Wheatley, the Winter River's watershed co-ordinator, said she "wouldn't bet money on it."

"For the past year and a bit, it's been 'oh, it will be online in about a month.' Then we have another update meeting, and it's 'oh, it'll be another month.' So it's the same line over and over again," she said. 

Sarah Wheatley, the Winter River's watershed co-ordinator, says while the demand on the river's water supply isn't overly concerning in January, it will be by summer if the new well field isn't operating at capacity by then. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

"I would've hoped somebody knew what they were doing, and could plan for all these different eventualities. But it hasn't turned out that way."

Wheatley said while the demand on the Winter River isn't a huge concern during the winter months, it will be by summer if the new well field isn't fully operational. 

"Whenever the streams dry up from overextraction, it's not good for the ecosystem. You're causing problems all through the river system," she said. 

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