Kneehill County: Awaiting provincial direction on hamlet’s water

Kneehill County awaits Alberta Environment’s direction on changes to a hamlet’s water supply. A report on the Hamlet of Wimborne’s water quality was made at the May 28 regular meeting of council.

Councillors heard a report on Wimborne’s water quality from John McKiernan, manager, environmental services, who noted a change may be coming at the behest of Alberta Environment.

“Historically the groundwater for the Hamlet of Wimborne has been high in naturally occurring fluoride with test results typically indicating an average of 2.00 mg/L,” stated McKiernan in his report to council. “The maximum allowable concentration (MAC) for fluoride in drinking water is 1.50 mg/L.” McKiernan noted Wimborne’s water supply over the years also encountered sodium and dissolved solids although not to the fluoride’s extent.

He explained the Alberta government announced a change that affected Wimborne.

“In the past and in the present, there has been an exemption granted to waterworks with naturally occurring fluoride to not be in contravention of the parameters as set but, it has been dealt with as a notification and the community residents are to be aware of the high level of fluoride in the drinking water,” stated McKiernan.

“Kneehill County has had a notification on its website and has in the past included an AHS letter within the utility bill.

“In June of 2022 Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) removed the exemption for naturally occurring fluoride exceeding the MAC in high quality groundwater. This change allowed communities time to undertake a system assessment, create a plan and then implement this plan to bring the fluoride concentration into line with the MAC of 1.50 mg/L.

“If the water system is not upgraded to reduce the fluoride concentration then it will be considered non-compliant.”

McKiernan explained the provincial government gave Kneehill County time to explore options for addressing Wimborne’s water quality issues and it was initially scheduled to move forward in 2027.

However, McKiernan stated that after the initial announcement, Kneehill County never heard back from Alberta Environment. “…a follow-up notification letter was to be received from AEP that would contain written notice of the changes and additional information, including instructions for coming into compliance, such as specific timelines and expectations, as of this date this letter has not been received,” stated McKiernan.

Regardless, McKiernan pointed out Kneehill County made lots of progress analyzing the Wimborne issue with the help of a consultant, and had a number of options for councillors to consider if it turns out Alberta Environment orders this project to proceed.

The first option was centralized on-site treatment, which was essentially an upgrade to the current pumphouse that addressed fluoride and met targets. Estimated initial cost would be $550,000 with ongoing costs of $104,000.

Reeve Ken King asked what would happen to “filtered out” materials with McKiernan responding it would be backwashed as wastewater.

McKiernan estimated Wimborne residents, on average, use eight cubic metres of water per day and about 20 to 30 per cent waste could be expected with this system.

The reeve asked what effect a system like this would have on the lagoon. McKiernan responded that the consultants looked at that issue and felt the lagoon could handle it.

The second option was point of use treatment, which means systems installed at each home.

McKiernan noted this system has a number of drawbacks including call-outs and regular maintenance; no cost estimate was calculated.

A third option would be tapping into nearby Torrington’s water line; a pipeline-only estimate of cost was $2.5 million and a more comprehensive upgraded system would be in the neighbourhood of $5 million.

The last option would be to deliver potable water to Wimborne; McKiernan stated this option has its own set of challenges, including varying levels of demand and delivery schedules. The cost estimate was about $150,000 per year.

Manager of Transportation Mike Ziehr chipped in by saying this report was a feasibility study at this point, with no required action by council until Kneehill County hears back from Alberta Environment.

The reeve pointed out that if such action is required, council probably should discuss their vision for Wimborne in the future before any large investments are made.

Councillors unanimously accepted the report as information.

Stu Salkeld
Local Journalism Initiative reporter
ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.