Central Lambton communities look for cash for water


Petrolia and its neighbours are looking for cash from the province to improve the water system.
The town, which owns the water system, and Enniskillen, Dawn-Euphemia and Oil Springs, which purchase water from the town, have applied to the province for $7 million to replace the clearwell at the Bright’s Grove Water Treatment Plant.
Water from the Lake Huron intake enters the clearwell where it is mixed with chlorine for treatment. The existing clearwell is original to the water plant.
Petrolia Mayor John McCharles says if the town continued to produce the amount of water it does now, about 6,000 cubic meters of water per day, the aging clearwell wouldn’t need replacement immediately. “There is some crumbling, not that it is a major issue, but we don’t want to make it a major issue,” says McCharles adding it is a safety measure.
But there is an increased demand for water from the agricultural community which Petrolia is able to meet if it runs the water plant at capacity.
In Dawn-Euphemia, Greenhill Produce planned a 40-acre project, but as it stands now, they’re not able to get enough water for the project without affecting the water pressure of the rest of the community.
And in Enniskillen, there may be an increased demand if Tilray – a medical marijuana producer which is setting up shop on Lasalle Line – expands. “Right now, we can give Tilray what it needs,” says Enniskillen Mayor Kevin Marriott. But he says the company has already said it’s expansion plans need more water.  “The clock is ticking…we have to make sure we can supply the water,” says Marriott. If the province approves the application, Marriott says Tilray will have the water it needs.“We don’t know what will happen if this is turned down.”
But the situation is not as easy in Dawn-Euphemia. While the municipality needs Petrolia to produce the water, some of its water lines are smaller than most agricultural operations need.
That would require even more cash to upgrade the lines and Mayor Al Broad says that could cost millions.
But he says Dawn-Euphemia was glad to put its name on the project because having a reliable water sources is important for everyone in the municipality.
Broad added under the rules of the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund grant, Dawn-Euphemia didn’t have a project of its own which would qualify for funding, so helping improve the local water system was a good option.
McCharles says the new clearwell system would ensure the system would run smoothly. Right now, there is one clearwell at the plant. If it would go down for any reason, the municipality would have to buy its water from the Lambton Area Water Supply System at a much higher rate than it pays to produce its own.
If the province agrees to fund the $8 million project, two clearwells will be built so if one needs repairs, the other will still provide water to the community.
The project also includes some new hydraulic pumps.
Just last year, the town’s operator at the plant, the Ontario Clean Water Agency and CIMA, said replacing the clearwell was not necessary. Over the last five years, the municipality has made several changes to its capital plans for the water treatment plant.
November 2013
Mayor John McCharles says instead of $18 million in repairs, Petrolia’s water system will need about $10 million in repairs over the next ten years. At the time, the town was negotiating water rates with Enniskillen Township.
April 2016
Town officials pass a motion allowing Petrolia to have discussions with the Lambton Area Water Supply System to become a partner and closing Petrolia’s plant. At the time, officials estimated repairs at $25 million
May 2016
LAWSS says no to partnership request offers to sell the town water. Petrolia says no.
June 2016
The Ontario Clean Water Agency, which runs the Bright’s Grove Plant, says a $8.75 million replacement of the water intake isn’t necessary because water levels are higher. Now, town believes only $14.4 million in repairs will be done over 10 years. The clearwell replacement is not in the plans.
McCharles believes this is the first time four municipalities have worked together to get one grant in Ontario and adds provincial administrators like the idea a lot.
McCharles expects the province to make a decision by January or February.