Bashaw town council wants a bit more information before deciding on a business’ request to drill its own water well in town limits. The matter was discussed at the May 6 regular meeting of council.
Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller reported back to council on a request from PolyAg Recycling, which, at a previous meeting of council, requested the town’s support in drilling its own water well.
PolyAg representatives stated some of their concerns with using the town’s water included the high water bills and quality of the water, as build-up on their machinery was causing a concern.
Councillors previously stated they wished to help a local business if they could, so they instructed CAO Fuller to look into the possibility of a water well inside Bashaw.
Fuller stated in her report it appears there are some hurdles as far as drilling a well for industrial purposes inside a town that has a water system available for use.
She stated water wells are not approved under town authority, but rather Alberta Environment’s.
The CAO stated business owners are responsible for filtering the town water to whatever standard they need.
An issue that took up much of the time of the discussion was PolyAg’s proposed site for the water well, which Fuller noted has a history of contamination including hydrocarbons.
She stated the site in question has surface contamination in four areas.
When asked if a water well drilled on that site could pose a risk to the town wastewater system Fuller answered, “Yes, it could have potential to contaminate the lagoon,” and added that some town liability could be assumed because council would have approved the water well. She noted that repairing the lagoon could cost millions of dollars.
Fuller reminded councillors that at the previous council meeting she reported her findings regarding nearby town’s policies on similar requests. She stated Stettler and Camrose both have utility bylaws that forbid water wells in town.
Coun. Rob McDonald stated he didn’t agree with everything in Fuller’s report, as hydrocarbons already go into the wastewater system, so it must be able to handle them to a certain extent. He used as an example someone washing work clothes covered in hydrocarbons, which then go down the drain into the wastewater system.
“So there is hydrocarbons in our sewage, there’s no doubt about it,” said McDonald.
McDonald stated he was concerned about PolyAg leaving Bashaw permanently if the water well request is turned down.
Public Works Foreman Murray Holroyd was also attending the Zoom council meeting, and during discussion it wasn’t established what level of hydrocarbons are in Bashaw’s wastewater system or what parts per million are allowed under provincial law, if any.
Holroyd did note the code of practice has no specifics on testing for hydrocarbons.
McDonald stated several times he would need that information before making a decision on PolyAg’s request.
It was also noted during discussion at least one Bashaw business had a water well approved in town limits, but it was also stated that site had no access to the town water system.
As councillors debated they agreed the town doesn’t approve water well applications, but PolyAg would still like to use the town wastewater system, so that would be up to council.
Coun. Rosella Peterman stated she wanted to help PolyAg but could see risks associated with the request.
Holroyd suggested setting up a meeting with provincial government departments to get answers for council’s concerns and perhaps conducting a test of the town’s lagoon to see what hydrocarbons are there. He stated that testing costs money, however.
Councillors approved setting up the meeting with the provincial government, with all of council included.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter