Drinking Water Report:
History of Prince Rupert:
Prince Rupert has a long history of ownership and control of public utilities. Prior to the establishment of what is now known as BC Hydro, Prince Rupert operated its own hydro electric plant and still owns the local telephone company (now with internet & cable), a continuing source of community pride. Additionally, the City has always operated both a community sewer and a water utility.
The Water Utility began with just two small dams on Kaien Island. However, these were unacceptable for the longer term and by 1914 the City had secured a much more reliable source of raw water, two large lakes and watersheds on the Tsimshian Peninsula. Unfortunately, the elevation of Shawatlan Lake was lower than much of Kaien Island, necessitating the construction of a large Pump House at the shoreside intake. The new pumping system pushed the water through an undersea or sub-marine supply main across Fern Passage to the Kaien Island townsite where booster pumps moved it on to the Acropolis Reservoir in the city’s west end.
Ultimately, the large diameter penstock line from the former BC Hydro Utility dam at Woodworth Lake, higher up in the Coastal Mountain Range, would be extended and form the backbone of a gravity water supply system, leaving the Shawatlans pumping system as a valuable back-up facility to be used in case of emergency or necessary maintenance activity. However, it was 1996 before key infrastructure improvements finally allowed Woodworth Lake to totally fulfill all of Prince Rupert’s potable water and fire protection needs. After over 80 years of continual pumping, the City was finally able to switch to a full gravity-fed supply system, eliminating substantial annual hydro electric costs.
Today, the Prince Rupert water system feds approximately 6 million cubic metres of potable water per year to local residents, businesses, and industry, utilizing over 50 kilometres of distribution line and close to 6000 individual service connections. The system is also capable of meeting the peak seasonal demand of a number of industrial fish processors which can generate over twice the average daily consumption.
Few issues are more important to a municipality than the quality of the drinking water it delivers. It has consequently been Prince Rupert’s extreme good fortune to have always had one of the best protected raw water sources in British Columbia. In order to prevent human contamination of the water supply, the City of Prince Rupert maintains restricted access to the watersheds surrounding both Woodworth and Shawatlans Lakes. As noted in the B.C. Auditor General’s Report which reviewed our water protection practices, water source protection is by far the easiest, least expensive, and most practical approach to ensuring the long term safety of the water supply.
Additionally, as a second barrier of defence against the incidence of waterborne disease, the municipality maintains an enduring chlorine residual throughout the water distribution system. Chlorine is the most reliable and widely used drinking water disinfectant in North America. A “residual” is the trace amount of chlorine left in the drinking water after initial disinfection have taken place. As long as a trace of chlorine or residual can be detected, the line is still subject to active disinfection. For greater public safety and adequate contact time, chlorine is added before the water reaches Kaien Island. Chlorine dosage must be constantly trimmed and balanced to maximise disinfection but minimize the production of potentially harmful disinfection by-products (DBPs), particularly Trihalomethanes (THMs). Residual levels are therefore electronically monitored on a constant basis through-out the municipality. To further check that the chlorination process is working properly and that the water system has not been otherwise compromised, various types of water quality samples are taken daily, weekly, or at other regular intervals. The results of the Water Quality Testing Program are reported to the Provincial Ministry of Health and are available on the Northern Health Authority’s Public Health Protection website.
This public site lists the following up-to-date information about our water quality monitoring program:
- Drinking Water inspection Reports
- Current Water Notices - None are in place for Prince Rupert which has a hazard rating of “Low” (optimal) and there is no record of a water notice or advisory ever being issued for our water system.
- Chemical Samples & Results – Actual chemical analysis test results for 8 key sampling points going back as far as 1989.
- Water Sample Results – Actual bacteriological test results for selected sampling points dating back to 1994. “L1” means “less than one” or no coliform issues detected.
In the unlikely event of an actual drinking water quality concern or emergency, a Water Quality Advisory, Boil Water Notice, or Do Not Use Water Notice would be issued by the Northern Health Authority. This notice would be placed on the home page of this website as part of a larger media and public notification effort. For further information see the section below regarding “Emergency Planning”.
Fluoride is not presently added to Prince Rupert’s potable water as the injection system is currently off-line, awaiting sufficient funding for upgrading and replacement.
The most noticeable physical property of Prince Rupert’s potable water is color. While this has a measurable aesthetic value, there is no impact on human health.
While water system reliability is absolutely essential, all public water systems can be the victims of various types of emergencies from either natural or man-made causes. Some potential emergencies can be averted or have their impact greatly minimized by advance preparation and sound infrastructure planning. These activities reflect the importance of the water system in sustaining a safe and healthy community. Key to emergency planning is the recognition of the need for a certain amount of redundancy in both physical plant and human resources.
As noted in the “History” section, Prince Rupert is extremely fortunate to have two operational water sources – Shawatlans and Woodworth Lakes. In 2009, Prince Rupert’s main water source was cut off for a considerable time period when the pipeline from Woodworth Lake was heavily damaged by a landslide. In many communities this would certainly have qualified as a disaster. In this case however, the waterworks department was able to quickly switch over to the Shawatlans Lake source and utilize the pumping system already in place. That system has triple power-source redundancy, with hydro power backed up by both diesel-powered engines and a stand-alone power generation system.
In the case of any serious emergency, the Prince Rupert Water Department works hand-in-hand with all other City departments, local Emergency Services, the Provincial Emergency Program (PEP), the Provincial Ministry of Health through the Northern Health Authority, and other utilities and organizations as required. City Council would be informed in a timely manner regarding all pertinent aspects of the problem as will the general public through this website and all other available media.
System Improvements Completed and Planned:
No major operational challenges were encountered in 2010 that affected water quality and there are no construction-related impacts to our water system at this time.
Near-term improvements will include major upgrades to the Woodworth Dam, the large diameter Penstock Supply Main and the associated road. As soon as financially feasible, funding will be sought (partially through grants from senior government) to replace one of the two submarine water mains going under Fern Passage. Again, the principle of redundancy is key to responsible emergency preparedness. Local water charges reflect the cost of ensuring an appropriate level of reliability and safety, as well as the logistics involved in the delivery of fresh water from “Lake-to-Tap”.
Links of Interest:
For more information, the following links may be of interest:
- Northern Health website: www.healthspace.ca/nha
- Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/water-eau/drink-potab/guide/index-eng.php
- For a record of actual rainfall events please navigate to the Cityhall Weather Station