Daily Commercial News. September 21, 2009
FOCUS: Sewer and watermain
Lakeshore, Ontario trades in cast iron for PVC watermains
Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain smiles when he recalls showing taxpayers a cutaway from an old cast iron pipe - part of the town’s aged water system - thick with encrusted rust.
That seemed to seal the deal with ratepayers who had balked when they learned they would pay an additional charge to dig up the average 60 year old lines and replace them with gleaming new PVC pipe.
“When they saw that,” he said, speaking in his first floor office looking out on the Town of Belle River’s main street, “they were certainly in agreement then that, ‘Whoa, I guess that does need replacing.’ ”
Other residents, however, were more than ready for watermain replacement. Several showed up at town council meetings with jars of red rusty water taken from their taps.
“We had water that people were bringing in jars that was just rust,” Bain said.
Lakeshore is a significant community in the Windsor Metropolitan area. The town at 530 sq km has the largest land mass in the Windsor area, including the City of Windsor. With a 24 per cent growth rate between 1996-2006 it’s also the region’s fastest-growing municipality with several new auto-and non-related companies and new middle and upper-middle class subdivisions.
Rapid growth has forced Lakeshore to undertake a massive water system upgrade project.
The town is in the third year of a more than decade-long project to replace those old cast iron 12- inch lines and replace them with pipe up to 24 inches. Of the water system’s 650 km, 37 km had been cast iron.
Despite its large price tag, Lakeshore is getting comparatively little in grant money. The vast majority of funds are coming from local water rates and some provincial gas tax funding. So far close to $15 million has been spent with as much as $13 million budgeted over the next 10 years.
In a separate project, but also part of a 20-year water and wastewater master plan, the town in February opened its $30 million Belle River water treatment plant. The plant is one of five from which it draws water including from as far east as neighbouring Kent County. $10.2 million of the cost came from the Canada-Ontario Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund (COMRIF).
Interestingly, in the construction of that plant, the town learned that one of its intakes “was in the worst spot in Lake St. Clair where it could have been,” Bain said.
Lake St. Clair is extremely shallow with an average depth of 3.4 metres.
“Because Lake St. Clair is such a shallow lake it’s very susceptible to the action of the wind and water flushed from the water courses after heavy rains,” town engineering director Dan Piescic said.
After windstorms and rainstorms the intake was getting turbidity readings of 1000 or 2000. The town had to treat it with alum to settle particles. But that lowered the water’s pH, reacting with the iron oxide and causing pipes to be more corrosive.
Piescic said the town did sophisticated hydraulic modelling to find out where a new intake should go, “where’s the sweetest spot where the lowest turbidity levels would be.” They found it 1,050 metres from shore.
A 300-metre roadway had to be built in order to transfer pipe on to a barge.
Because of the lake’s shallowness Windsor-area marine construction specialist Dean Construction had to build a 300-metre roadway into the lake so that it could extend pipe to a distance where a barge could take over.
That road has vanished as quickly as it appeared. “They (Dean) made use of everything,” Piescic said. Backfill was needed on top of the installed pipe. Dean used the road as fill.
Turbidity readings, remarkably, are down to 8 or 9. “Now we’re enjoying much lower turbidity which translates into lean treatment costs because we don’t have to use as many chemicals,” Piescic said.
To a certain extent Lakeshore has bucked an overall severe downturn in the Windsor area economy but growth during the recession nevertheless has remained slow. But with the new main and distribution lines, the municipality will be well positioned when growth returns.
Said Bain: “I think as soon as you see any turn in the economy at all you’re going to see these developers at the door.”