At a public meeting Wednesday evening, held at TOGP, citizens were provided with information about arsenic levels in the drinking water and were told the Town of Virden is seeking out a new water source with less or no arsenic.
Mayor Murray Wright encouraged people to ask their questions. “This is informal, we want to get input from you and give you an update as to what’s going on.”
Wright handed the microphone to Jeff O’Driscoll from Associated Engineering, Winnipeg, who explained, “I’ve been providing assistance to the Town since 2007, when we started to do upgrades at the water treatment plant. Around 2010 it was upgraded from it’s old process to the new process, using membranes (reverse osmosis).”
The existing source wells are just a few kilometres from Virden, in the valley near the Assiniboine River. A new source is being investigated a few kms north of the existing well.
That process is well underway with a geologist and the provincial Water Services. While there is no hard deadline to get the new water, the consensus from the O’Driscoll and the Office of Drinking Water representative - now is the time.
Initial estimates to get a new source well up and running and tied into Virden’s existing treatment plant is $6.2 million.
O’Driscoll pointed out that the well needs to be produced (pumping a certain volume of water) before it can be confirmed as the new source. “They do a series of wells “capacity and sustainability” “They do test for quality.”
After the meeting Virden’s administrator, Rhonda Stewart, explained that the Town is in partnership with Water Services, who work with Senior Geologic Engineer Steve Wiecek.
Because the initial findings in the nearby location look promising, Water Services Board based the cost estimate on that location.
How much will this cost tax payers? That is still unknown. The Town is applying for funding from a federal fund and is optimistic this will help pay for a big chunk of the cost of this mandatory upgrade.
The Water Quality Notice for Virden’s water (going to every household and business) was available at the information meeting. The notice informs that in tests, the arsenic level varies, sometimes registering twice the amount of the guideline maximum.
About a dozen questions were fielded from the 20 some gathered at the meeting, including whether a person should stop drinking the water. The answer from Nancy Fitzgerald, (Office of Drinking Water) was not definitive. But they want citizens to know the facts.
A fact sheet provided estimates between three to 39 people in 100,000 may develop a cancer related to arsenic exposure in drinking water over a lifetime (70 years). In a town the size of Virden (do the math) that would statistically be less than one person that would develop cancer related to drinking the water for 70 years.
However, O’Driscoll pointed out that zero arsenic is the goal. “It’s not acceptable where we are,”
Virden public hear risks, solutions