Bashaw town council wants more information before it can decide on a business’ request to drill its own water well inside the municipal boundaries.
Councillors heard the request at their April 29 regular meeting which was chaired by Deputy Mayor Rosella Peterman.
Councillors hosted a representative of PolyAg Recycling, Dan Zembal, and also had a letter in their agenda package from a second representative, Damian Flegel, asking for permission to drill a water well for their 3.25 acre Bashaw plant located at 5024 46th Ave, rather than use the town water system.
Flegel stated in his letter that the well water would be used to supply PolyAg’s production system needs and would be non-potable.
“PolyAg Recycling Ltd. has a high production system demand for the washing of our feed stock (grain bags) and cooling of our extruded plastic pellets,” stated Flegel’s March 25 letter.
“Over the past six months, our average water usage has been 788 cubic metres per month. We believe that this demand is excessively higher as compared to other businesses on the town water system.”
Flegel stated in his letter town water bills “…are significantly impacting our operating costs and potential profitability.”
Zembal, speaking in person, asked councillors to reconsider their previous decision to turn down PolyAg’s request for a well.
Zembal stated the Bashaw plant runs 24 hours a day five days a week, and the company noticed a significant scaling or build-up problem due to minerals in the town water. He said the scaling plugged up a cooling radiator in six months.
Zembal noted PolyAg has sent away some water samples for testing.
He further noted that PolyAg wants to keep a potable or drinkable source of water but also would like a private well for non-potable production water.
Good news is that Zembal stated PolyAg is considering building a second plant for agricultural or industrial plastic.
Coun. Lynn Schultz pointed out that well water can also cause a scaling problem.
During debate, Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller stated she contacted two nearby municipalities, the Town of Stettler and City of Camrose, to see how they handle requests like this.
She stated both have bylaws in place that forbid private water wells inside municipal limits primarily due to the cross-contamination risk.
She noted that Camrose would allow a water well if a development was unable to hook up to the municipal system.
Fuller stated after contacting the provincial government PolyAg would have to work with Alberta Environment on a license and pre-approval.
The CAO noted town staff looked at the site PolyAg has proposed for the well and it was previously used by the town but had to be shut down due to cross-contamination.
Coun. Schultz stated he didn’t have a problem with PolyAg’s request if Alberta Environment approved it. He noted the private well would hurt the town in some ways but he understood where PolyAg’s concerns were coming from.
Coun. Rob McDonald stated he wanted to do something to help a good industrial resident of the town.
Coun. Darren Pearson stated it does seem like a waste to use the town’s potable water for industrial purposes.
Fuller reminded councillors the town has a contract to buy a certain amount of water from the Hwy. #12/21 Commission and already uses less than it buys.
She also noted the province seems to be focusing on accessing surface water rather than ground water.
The CAO also added that approving PolyAg’s request could set a precedent for Bashaw residents who may prefer their own well to the town water supply and that PolyAg still wanted to use the town’s sewer system.
Peterman stated she was concerned about the precedent but wanted to help a local business and suggested council needed more information before they could make a decision.
McDonald stated before councillors made a decision they needed information on what level of hydrocarbon contamination was acceptable to enter the town’s sewer system.
Councillors asked Fuller to gather more information and PolyAg’s request would be discussed again at a future meeting.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter