All’s not well with Woodstock’s wells

by | Oct 25, 2023

Mayor updates ongoing water quality problems at town’s second well; explains pump issues at town’s primary water source

With a treatment plant viewed as an unlikely option to address water-quality problems at Woodstock’s $4 million second water source in Grafton, Woodstock Mayor Trina Jones offered a status update on Woodstock’s water issues at the Oct. 24 council meeting.

The mayor explained she wanted to keep the public informed about the town’s water situation, noting her statement adds to information shared earlier this year surrounding problems with the Grafton well.

“For the Grafton well house, as was clarified earlier this year, this council was informed that the Grafton well house had not been added into our water distribution network due to water quality concerns and no treatment facility constructed to correct any water quality issues,” Jones said. “As was also shared earlier this year, the project as a whole is under legal review, and as such, my conversation tonight will be around our efforts to try and determine how we move forward with what we have today.”

She explained that because of the water quality concerns, the town did not connect the Grafton well to the Woodstock water distribution network.

“The concerns with the quality of water remain and are specifically aesthetic exceedances for total dissolved solids, manganese, and chloride,” Jones said.

The mayor noted that in June, the well project’s initial consultant presented the council with a proposal to pursue a water treatment option.

Jones said council decided at the time to reach out to other companies to seek second and third opinions surrounding the viability of a water-treatment solution.

“Though we may want to find a way to treat the water, this council is not willing to continue down the path pursuing that if it simply isn’t achievable or affordable,” she said.

Jones said both consultants advised the town that water treatment is not feasible under current quality issues and within the existing space.

Based on recommendations from both companies, the mayor said the town is undertaking different testing to determine if reducing the volume of water produced would improve water quality sufficiently to allow integration into the town’s water system more confidently.

“Today, the Grafton Wellhouse is useful only as a temporary backup well should something happen with our main production wells,” Jones said.

Following the meeting, Jones explained that in the event of complete failure at the town’s primary well, the Grafton well could be used to maintain the sewer system and provide fire coverage but would not meet quality standards from drinking.

The push to find a second water source for the town began in 2014 after a spring flood washed away the causeway and power lines leading to the town’s only water source on an island in the St. John River.

After years of searching, consultants identified a site along Shore Road in Grafton as a dependable source. After three levels of government invested more than $4 million to bring the new water source online, water tests failed to meet quality standards.

In addition to the update on the Grafton well, Jones also detailed steps underway to address mechanical issues at the town’s main well.

She referred to a report from Woodstock’s new Director of Utilities, John Lyons, at the Oct. 10 council-in-committee meeting outlining the failure of one of the pumps at the town’s primary well.

Jones explained Lyons is currently sourcing the cost and timeline to replace the inoperable pump.

She said the estimated cost of an exact replacement of the existing pump is approximately $120,000. She added a more effective submersible pump could cost less, between $80,000 to $90,000, but the timeline for delivery of any pump still needs to be determined.

Jones said Lyons is also inquiring about the compatibility of the Grafton well house pump, should it be needed at the main well house in an emergency.

“We recognize that the need to ensure our regular water supply supersedes any necessary testing, so if the team deems that an option, it will be evaluated based on the lead time of getting a new pump,” she said.

The mayor said Woodstock’s new CAO Allan Walker, attending his first council meeting in his new job,  will work directly with Lyons to review the Grafton well house situation.

Jones added Lyons would also work closely with Walker to develop a one-to-five-year plan surrounding Woodstock infrastructure upgrades.

“We plan to release a Utility Report card in January that will outline what we plan to do next year, how much money we have to invest, and what improvements we made this past year,” she said.

Jones said she and the new CAO plan to keep Woodstock residents updated on developments at both the Grafton and main wells.

“We feel it is important to be transparent with you, regardless of whether what we have to share with you is good news or bad,” she said.

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