The District of Sparwood is drilling a new well for the town near Cummings Creek, to replace Well #3, which tests positive for selenium.
The District has been planning on drilling a fourth well for a number of years now, after finding trace levels of selenium in the water from Teck’s local mining operations.
As a result, Teck is financing the drilling of a new well far from the affected area. Wells one and two are not affected by Teck’s operations.
“Our Well #3 gets real close to acceptable selenium levels,” said Mayor Cal MacDougall. “Sometimes we exceed the B.C. health levels.”
The well is being built in consultation with the Interior Health Authority and Ministry of Environment and Climate Change strategy.
Currently, the threshold for safe levels of selenium in drinking water nationally is .05 .
The provincial standard is currently .01, which is the standard rate that Well #3 tests at.
Danny Dwyer, Director of Engineering with the District of Sparwood says the water is safe to drink, and the well is used as a back-up supply for the town in the summer when usage increases. In a media release, the District states that they and Teck are taking a proactive approach to finding drinking water that is not influenced by mining activities.
“It’s not related to the same aquifer that Well #3 is in,” said MacDougall. “Therefore the selenium levels would be inconsequential.”
Well #3 was shut down temporarily for exceeding that standard, but currently rests at .01 parts per million.
The mayor says the new well will likely be used as a back up supply of drinking water, like the third well, which will also stay open, but be used less.
In 2014 the District successfully drilled a test well near Cummings Creek and are looking for the optimal location to drill the full-size well.
“We have to have sufficient quantity,” said Dwyer. He says the well must be able to provide 70 litres a second, which will not require an environmental assessment.
“Until we know where the well is going we don’t know the full cost yet,” said Dwyer, who estimates that the well will be finished by fall and will be anywhere from $3-5 million.
Teck will be funding the project, which will include the construction of a pump station, water transmission main running up the east side of Highway 43, following up Sparwood Heights drive and to the former ski hill. Work will also be done to ensure that water from the new site can be transferred into the communities south of the Elk River as well.
This work is expected to continue into 2018.