White Rock’s new plant for reducing arsenic and manganese levels in city water is “on schedule and on-budget” – according to city utilities manager Saad Jasim.
The plant will be completed and up and running by the end of January, he said.
Jasim noted that the design-build approach for the Oxford Street Water Treatment Plant, in collaboration with contractor NAC Constructors, has helped to create an efficient, cost-effective and upgrade-capable operation that will be responsive to city needs as far in the future as 2045.
With the building largely complete, the majority of the equipment is to be delivered next week, Jasim said, during a recent interview with Peace Arch News at the site, adjacent to Goggs Avenue behind the Royce condominium development.
Once operational, the plant is to keep arsenic levels in White Rock water to an objective of two micrograms per litre, 95 per cent of the time (below the maximum allowable concentration of 10 micrograms stipulated by Health Canada), Jasim said.
And while Health Canada is contemplating a 20-microgram-per-litre esthetic objective for manganese in the water – down from the current 50 microgram objective – Jasim said that testing has shown that it can be reduced consistently to less than 10.
A public ceremony acknowledging federal and provincial grant contributions of just over $11.79 million (83 per cent of the costs of the estimated $14.6 million project) will likely be held in September, he added.
While the plant should be operational before March, the formal grand opening and main local celebration will likely be timed to coincide with the UN-designated World Water Day on March 22. One of the principal items approved by the UN General Assembly states that sustainable water supplies for all nations is a basic human right, Jasim noted.
Clean water has been both a profession and a passion for Jasim, who received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Baghdad University before going on to get his doctorate in the same subject at the University of Wales in Swansea in the U.K.
Among many assignments as a consultant, lecturer and researcher around the globe was testifying as a technical expert in the O’Connor inquiry into causes of the E. coli outbreak at Walkerton, Ont. in 2000, which had resulted in six deaths and more than 2,000 cases of gastroenteritis as a result of contaminated water.
That led to him becoming the founding chief executive officer for the Walkerton Clean Water Centre – the primary provider of water-related technical training in Ontario, including a state of the art technology demonstration facility – from 2005 to 2010.
Jasim said he believes his background has suited him to finding practical solutions for upgrading the safety and quality of White Rock’s water system, reliant on wells fed by the Sunnyside aquifer since the city was first settled.
The design-build process approved for the project has also allowed for flexibility to modify plans for greater efficiency along the way, without having to go back to council for each and every change, Jasim said.
“For instance, the ozone contact treatment we will be using, we will be doing in a pipe,” he said. “This way provides the best contact treatment, and instead of building a huge tank, we can hang it on the wall.”
Ozone treatment of water is something Jasim (president-elect of the International Ozone Association) has championed internationally, including implementing ozone as a primary disinfectant in Windsor, Ont., where he served as director of water quality and production for the Windsor Utilities Commission (the largest application of its kind at the time, which has since been followed by other cities including Toronto).
“Ozone is the strongest oxidant capable of dealing with arsenic,” Jasim said, adding that it will convert the naturally-occurring chemical from a carcinogenic state to a non-carcinogenic form more easily absorbed by the ‘green sand plus’ filtering medium chosen as a result of city studies conducted in collaboration with Res’eau-WaterNet research facility at UBC.
“It allows for a much smaller contact time than chlorine,” he said.
He added that many studies he has personally been involved in or initiated have shown that ozone is successful in oxidizing such pesticides as glyphosates and atrazine, and even compounds from pharmaceuticals and personal-care products.
“Ozone dissipates into oxygen, and we will also produce it through an ozone generator on-site,” he said, adding that the treatment plant will also be able to introduce chlorine before sending it to the distribution system, as mandated by Fraser Health.
The system is flexible enough to vary treatment options and concentrations to respond to different situations, he added.
“I believe that you go the extra mile,” Jasim said. “You don’t wait for something to happen.”
Jasim said he has no doubt that the current infrastructure upgrade would not have been possible without city ownership of the utility.
“When you have a private company operating the system you don’t see the investment in infrastructure. With private companies it’s a profit issue for them. I’ve spent my life in publicly owned systems and there is a need to invest.”
The city’s costs for building the new plant, he said, are “within the contingency approved by council” without anticipated overruns.
Using pre-engineered metal building components has not only saved time and money, but has also provided a strong structure that is seismically sound as well, Jasim said.
It’s a point of pride, he said, that the plant has been created without clear-cutting the site, and that significant trees, including some mature specimens along Goggs Avenue, have been retained.
“We tried not to cut so many trees by utilizing every bit of space,” he said.