Woodstock approves funding for new well drilling

by | Jun 13, 2024

Contract prepared to proceed with estimated $1 million project to secure backup water source

Woodstock council took the first steps to fund the drilling of a new well to provide greater security to the town’s public water source. 

At the June 11 regular council meeting, the council passed a motion giving town administration approval to finalize a $639,000 contract to begin the next phase of drilling what the CAO Allan Walker called Well # 3. 

In continuing updates over the past several council meetings, Walker explained that the planned new well is located near the town’s existing well, which provides Ward 4, the former town limits, with its only current source of water.

Earlier this year, the council approved the hiring of the engineering firm Boissonnault McGraw to oversee plans for a second water source after water tests deemed the completed second well in Grafton unusable because of high levels of contaminants. 

Walker said engineers submitted a proposal covering the location, drilling, and development of a third well at the River Well site.

During an update at the May 31 council meeting, Walker said Boissonnault McGraw, working with Gemtec, completed observation wells on the island near River Wells # 1 and 2. The funding approved by the council at the June 13 meeting will cover costs for Gemtec to drill production wells. 

“That will bring the water to the surface,” Walker told the council. 

Walker estimated the cost of the entire new well project at close to $1 million, including the above-ground infrastructure required to connect the new well to the existing well house. He said Boissonnault McGraw will provide the above-ground work at an estimated cost of $240,000. 

The CAO said the town is actively pursuing federal and provincial funding sources for the well project. 

Walker and Mayor Trina Jones have already met with Regional Development Commission officials, who could potentially provide up to 50 per cent of the estimated $1 million project costs. 

Walker said the town already submitted a request to the RDC, adding he is confident the RDC will approve Woodstock’s request. 

“The people with whom we were speaking have the ability to approve that within their own house,” he told the council at the June 13 meeting. “They don’t have to go to a higher level.”

Allen added that a note from RDC officials earlier on June 13 confirmed they were studying the town’s application and would contact them if they had further questions.

Mayor Jones said the town deems the backup well as vital, noting the project must move forward quickly with or without funding support. 

“We’re hopeful on the funding but regardless of whether we have funding or not we don’t want to slow down,” she said.  

Walker explained that the town is in a financial position to cover the entire project cost if necessary, noting that Director of Finance Jennifer Crabbe confirmed it has $975,000 in its utility capital reserve fund. 

Jones noted that while the funds are available, it wouldn’t be in the town’s best interest to deplete the reserve fund, noting the entire water and sewer system requires substantial upgrades. 

“We have to proceed because we know this is an emergency, so we can’t wait on funding,” she said. “Not ideal to deplete funds, but without water the rest of the system is irrelevant.”

Walker stressed that while the town is proceeding as quickly as possible, it is doing so cautiously, studying the project after each phase. 

Responding to a question from Coun. Lorne Leech, Walker explained the the town will conduct water-quality tests after each phase. He added it appears Well # 3 would draw water from the same source as the current wells. 

The testing questions remain at the top of the council’s mind since the water quality issues arose only after the three levels of government spent approximately $4 million to bring the Grafton well online. 

“It’s moving forward in a step-by-step fashion with each step approved before moving on to the next stage,” Walker said. 

The CAO told the council that engineers estimated the entire project would take 20 weeks.  

He also explained that connecting the new well to the existing system would require crews to shut off the town’s water supply for several hours. However, the engineers would prepare for that ahead of time to ensure all reservoirs were full and the shutdown did not occur when water was at higher-than-usual demand. 

The drive to find a second water source for Woodstock dates back a decade when a spring ice flow knocked out the town’s water supply. The search led to the drilling of the well in Grafton. 

While the new well sits on the island, near the current River Well, Walker said the town took steps to mitigate potential damage from another severe ice flow or flood. 

Walker said mitigation steps included installing a rock wall around the island’s shore. It also installed a propane generator to begin immediately in the case of a power failure. He added the generator sits nine feet above the surface to protect it from flood waters. 

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