Woodstock searching for answers to make water from new $4.1 million well save to use. Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

After more than seven years and over $4 million invested, Woodstock’s long-awaited second well might need years and millions more. 

After hearing the town’s crucial new drinking-water source is unusable, at least beyond short-term emergency use, a frustrated mayor and council demanded answers and solutions. 

CAO Andrew Garnett explained the problems publicly for the first time at the Tuesday, March 28, council meeting. 

Mayor Trina Jones said council was fully briefed only last week about the significant long-term issues with the new well. 

She explained representatives with Dillon Consulting brought the severe problems to her attention only recently during a meeting she requested with CAO Andrew Garnett, Director of Public Works Kristin Pelkey and Utility Greg Stokes and Director of Finance Kristen Pelkey. 

Jones explained the well, expected to come online months ago, cannot be used today and possibly not for the foreseeable future. 

She called it “beyond disappointing” to learn the town cannot use an eight-year project costing millions of dollars.

Garnett outlined the history of the well project, noting a spring flood in 2014 which washed away the causeway and power lines leading to the town’s only water source on an island in the St. John River, crystalized the vital need for a backup well. 

While town and NB Power crews quickly restored the causeway and power lines, the situation would have been dire if the ice flow had damaged the waterline. 

After years of searching for a second water source, the town identified a site on Shore Road in Grafton. 

Garnett explained that the current problem involves the baseline for water tests, noting today’s test results are not the same as the original tests. He also said the planned use of the Grafton well has changed since construction began. Intended initially as a backup, the town’s increasing water demands meant it became more than a backup well. 

While manganese is a long-running problem in Woodstock water, Garnett said salinity levels are the most significant issue at the new well. He said those levels increased significantly since the first tests. 

Garnett said the town was prepared to look at a treatment plan for manganese if needed, but salinity levels came as a surprise. 

“The bottom line is, as of now, we can only use that well on an emergency basis and for the short term,” he said. 

Garnett said the issue now is finding a way to fix the problem. 

He said Dillon is developing a double-focused report for council addressing funding options to cover a detailed study of the well and finding the methods and cost of fixing it. 

The CAO expressed confidence the Regional Development Corporation funds would be available for the study. Once the study identifies a remedy for the problems, the town must determine the cost and what federal and provincial programs are available. 

Garnett said the most critical aspect of Dillon’s report is identifying the problem and finding how to fix it. 

“That’s a little worrisome. How much is it going to cost us,” the CAO said. 

Whatever the cost, it will add to the more than $4.1 million already spent to bring the new well online. 

Pelkey broke down the sources of the $4.1 million, saying $1.7 million came from provincial and federal programs,  including the RDC and ICIP (Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program). The town contributed almost $1.4 million and used more than $1 million of Gas Tax Funds. 

Coun. Jeff Bradbury said he wants answers as to why the town finds itself in its current position. He and the mayor both stated they want to review all tests. 

“Some questions have to be answered,” he said, noting three levels of government paid millions of dollars on a project that may not be usable. 

Bradbury stressed the seriousness of the current dilemma. 

“Water is the most important part of any municipality,” he said. “Even more than the police. Without water, you’re shut down.”

Coun. Mike Martin noted the growing demands of the town’s main well. 

“When are we maxed,” he asked. 

Garnett said that could potentially happen, but he could not provide a timeline.

The CAO agreed the town might have to consider soon building another water tower to reduce pressure on the water infrastructure.  

Jones said solving the problem will cost time and money, noting it could reach millions and take two or three years, especially if the town is forced to amend environmental agreements. 

She added the costs of bringing the Grafton well online might force the town back to square one.

Jones said Ward 4, the former town of Woodstock, still bears most of the utility costs but noted money might be used from funding programs that could be directed to other wards.

By Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 29, 2023 at 17:54

This item reprinted with permission from   River Valley Sun   Woodstock, New Brunswick
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