Located 450 kilometres north of Edmonton, Alberta, Loon River First Nation is a community of approximately 600 residents. Over the years, the community has received its drinking water from Loon River. With seasonal algae blooms and high organic carbon, this water source is not ideal. The challenging conditions can lead to taste and odour problems and disinfection by-products formation that exceeds regulatory limits. In addition, plant operators have difficulties accessing and maintaining the raw water pumping facility. To mitigate these concerns, Loon River First Nation wanted to assess alternative water sources, including groundwater or a regional water supply from the Peace River.
Regional water solutions are common in Alberta and benefit communities and government in the long-term. However, regional water projects typically take years to gain momentum and funding support. Project Manager, Jeff Fetter, advises, “Connecting to the regional water supply would require a significant capital and lifecycle cost premium, partnering with a third-party utility company, regulatory approvals, and funding support from the Provincial and Federal governments.” Loon River First Nation decided a regional water supply would unlikely serve their needs in the next five to ten years, but would remain a long-term option.
Associated Engineering developed a solution using the existing surface water supply. We developed a three-phase plan, focusing first on improving the existing systems and then considering future needs. Our team worked closely with Loon River First Nation and Indigenous Services Canada to define phasing, schedule, funding, and annual budgets for the project.
Phase 1 involved improving the treated water quality by upgrading the raw water intake, implementing nanofiltration, upgrading the chemical system, reconstructing the truckfill pad, and improving miscellaneous water system components. Phase 2 of the project will improve the capacity of the plant by upgrading the pre-treatment process and pumping system. Phase 3 would involve identifying a long-term alternate water supply.
The Phase 1 design phase started in 2019 with a pilot study to demonstrate the effectiveness of reverse osmosis filtration membranes to remove total organic carbon, hardness, iron, and manganese from the raw water supply and establish design parameters for the full-scale system. Jeff explains, “Pilot testing was also important to determine if pre-treatment or post-treatment is required and identify operating issues for design consideration.”
With out-of-date facility record drawings, our team completed a virtual reality capture of the existing facility to enable development of a 3D model of the water treatment plant. The model assisted in the design of retrofits and tie-ins, which was particularly valuable as the detailed design phase was completed during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the existing facility modelled, our team could clearly show the integration between the new and existing buildings. Jeff shares, “The 3D model allowed operators to provide input and feedback and resulted in design improvements and modifications to meet the operators’ needs and optimize spaces.”
A new building was designed to house the new membrane nanofiltration system, including equalization tanks and transfer pumps; modern chemical feed systems; electrical room for the motor control centre, programmable logic controller and electrical distribution equipment; new wastewater lift station to handle additional flows from the water treatment plant; and relocated truckfill. To improve access for water trucks, we also expanded the entrance of the water treatment plant to accommodate truck turning. We also designed a new electrical service and emergency power system. The design considered future pre-treatment improvements and ultraviolet disinfection system. Construction began in June 2021 and is scheduled to be completed in December 2022.
Key staff include Jeff Fetter, Jacques Groenewald, Matt Somes, Nicholai Kristel, Norm Villeneuve, Hu Kou, Chris Parfitt, James Sharpe, Zhi Gu, and Bryden Coonan.