Operating Requirements of the Municipal Water System
Last month I wrote about the financing of the water system, and this month my report will describe the operating, maintenance and reporting requirements of the water system. There is much more involved to the operation of a municipal water system than most people realize, and ever since the deaths that resulted from the incompetent operation of the Walkerton water system in Ontario, regulatory requirements have been significantly increased. All three levels of government –– federal, provincial and municipal –– enforce regulations and guidelines to ensure the supply of safe drinking water.
The provincial government has primary responsibility for establishing criteria for the operation of all water systems in the Province. In British Columbia, the Drinking Water Protection Act (DWPA) and its regulations are administered by the Ministry of Health (through Regional Health Authorities), while a supporting role in source water protection is provided by the Ministry of Environment.
The DWPA requires the approval of water system construction proposals by public health engineers with the Regional Health Authorities, and Belcarra's engineered water system design had to be approved by Fraser Health before it was constructed. The DWPA also requires that water system operators operate their systems in compliance with the requirements of the act by enforcing standards and issuing construction and operating permits that may contain specific conditions set and approved by the health authority's Drinking Water Officer.
The DWPA also requires that all operators of water systems that serve more than 500 individuals be formally trained, tested and certified through the Environmental Operators Certification Program (EOCP). I am very pleased to note that both Larry Scott and Brad Smith have completed the full BC Water & Waste Association (BCWWA) training course, passed the EOCP examination, and are now certified to operate Belcarra's water system.
Emergency Response & Contingency Plans
The DWPA also requires documented emergency response and contingency plans approved by the health authority's drinking water officer as a prerequisite to operating the water system. Belcarra staff has been working with Fraser Health on the preparation and approval of emergency response and contingency plans specifically designed for Belcarra's water system. The DWPA requires public notification of water quality issues if the water provided by the supplier does not, or may not, meet approved standards. The supplier must notify the public via signage, and notify any person who may use the water if the water is not potable. Although our source water is from the Seymour–Capilano Filtration Plant, the filtered and disinfected water is also conveyed through parts of the District of North Vancouver (DNV) water infrastructure, and de-chlorination and disinfection following repairs and flushing form part of Belcarra's emergency response and contingency planning.
Greater Vancouver Water District
The Greater Vancouver Water District (GVWD) and its member municipalities work as partners to supply clean, safe drinking water to 2.3 million people within the region. Metro Vancouver is also responsible for developing long range plans for managing the region's three drinking water sources –– Coquitlam, Seymour and Capilano. These plans also address water quality and treatment such as that provided by the Seymour–Capilano Filtration Plant, the largest water filtration plant in Canada, which is Belcarra's water source. The Drinking Water Management Plan (DWMP) ensures that our region's water needs will be met affordably and sustainably.
Belcarra, as required by the Community Charter, has had to implement bylaws for the administration, operation and connection to, the municipal water system. The bylaws reflect the requirements of public health (as noted above), municipal standards and the BC Building Code. The ability to supply and protect the quality of potable water through construction standards and protection from cross-connection or other sources of contamination are included as part of the bylaw. Also, as a member of the GVWD, Belcarra and its residents are obliged to implement the requirements of the DWMP such as water conservation and other sustainability measures. As noted in the Village of Belcarra Water Use Efficiency Study (February 2007), water use efficiency will become increasingly important to ensure the future reliability of water supplies by reducing water demand. This includes activities to reduce the demand for water, improve efficiency in use, and reduce both the loss and waste of water. Water use restrictions, consistent with the GVWD Water Shortage Response Plan, must form part of the municipal water bylaw.
SCADA is an acronym for "Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition", and is a computer system for gathering and analyzing real-time data programmed to generate alarms and notifications to the water system's operators. Belcarra's water system design includes a SCADA system used to remotely monitor and control the system on a 7 / 24 basis which negates the need to have staff onsite after hours. Instead, pre-programed set-points will generate alarms and email notifications for reservoir high and low levels, low chlorine residual, pressure zone pump status, emergency generator and fire pump status, high and low temperature, DNV supply flow, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. These functions greatly reduce the time otherwise required to manually monitor and control the system, which is an important consideration given that our Village has very limited staff resources.
Monitoring & Maintenance
Daily inspection and documentation of all key water system components provides for the protection of water quality. Proper maintenance practices significantly reduce both long- and short-term system costs, system down-time, and the risk of contaminated water. Both preventative and corrective maintenance also ensures that the municipal water system will achieve its designed lifespan. A regular maintenance program includes chlorine analyzer calibration, reservoir cleaning, leak detection, watermain flushing, pipe protection, exercising of valves, booster pump, fire pump, standby generator, seismic and altitude valve, fire hydrant maintenance and teardowns (dis-assembly, inspection and re-assembly), swabbing and 'pigging' (a procedure used for cleaning the watermains under Indian Arm), and associated maintenance record keeping as an on-going part of the program.
Safety is an integral part of any employment and, as such, Belcarra has responsibility for the well-being and safety of its workers. The municipal water system has WorkSafe BC responsibilities for lock-out procedures, electrical safety, Workplace Hazardous Material Information System (WHMIS), hazardous materials, confined spaces, traffic control, excavation safety, and elevated workplace procedures. Operating guidelines and safe work procedures are part of the daily responsibilities of Belcarra's water system operators.
Water Flow Rate, Pressure & Chlorine Residual
The DWPA requires that a certified water system operator personally monitor and manually record, on a daily basis, the water flow rates, the water level of the Belcarra reservoir, and the residual chlorine level at the reservoir.
Water Quality Monitoring
Microbiological Sampling – The DWPA requires water suppliers, both municipal and private system operators, to regularly have water samples analyzed for both bacteriological quality and turbidity by a laboratory that has been approved by the Provincial Health Officer.
Sampling Stations – Belcarra's water system has been designed and built to current municipal standards and, accordingly, the water distribution system has been equipped with 18 water sampling stations located near the branch-ends of the water main to facilitate the process of sampling Belcarra's water to ensure safety. The water system operator (Belcarra's certified staff) is required to regularly obtain water samples and submit them for microbiological analysis.
GVWD Laboratory – On a weekly basis, Belcarra staff will submit about five water samples, taken on a rotational basis, to the GVWD laboratory for microbiological analysis according to the Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines. As a water supplier, the GVWD is required to produce an annual water quality report as per the Drinking Water Protection Regulation.
Water Utility & Billing System
Belcarra's water system is setup as a stand-alone utility such that the operating costs for the water system are allocated only to the property owners within the water system specified area. This has necessitated acquiring new accounting system software that can accommodate a utility billing system. Administratively, records for each property to document curb-stop and meter location, connection application and inspection permits, and billing accounts will be setup. During the first couple of years of water system operation, annual billing will be based on a flat-rate fee. Invoicing may be done as a stand-alone invoice or included on the property tax notice. Billing using a metered rate will be implemented in a couple of years after data gathering and usage demands can be determined.
The water meter utilizes electromagnetic flow measurement technology (no moving parts) and has a 20-year life-cycle with lithium-ion battery that also has a 20-year life. The water meter is an integrated unit that incorporates an electronic register and measuring device encased in an external housing that is water-proof (hermetically sealed). The integrated construction prevents tampering with the register, and the magnetic tamper and low field alarms will indicate any attempt to tamper with the magnetic field of the meter. The meters are radio-read by driving past the meter box to download water usage data. Initially, a more frequent meter reading regime will be necessary to establish benchmarks on peak demand periods, residential consumption versus total usage, leak detection, backflow events, and meter radio-read coverage. Water meter data will be analyzed in conjunction with SCADA information.
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Village of Belcarra
4084 Bedwell Bay Road
Tel: (604) 937-4100
Fax: (604) 939-5034
Office Hours:Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm,
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