VIPs, media tour new UV plant
A $100-million drinking water filtration plant that has already been working for six months in the Coquitlam watershed was opened for restricted viewing this week.
On Wednesday, Metro Vancouver engineers, health officials, mayors and the media were led on an exclusive tour of the new ultraviolet disinfection facility that promises to eradicate the bug cryptosporidium.
Metro officials told The Tri-City News they had already been working on designing the UV plant when the federal government ordered tighter controls on drinking water across the country following the Walkerton, Ont., tragedy that killed several people in 2000.
That same year, Metro installed an ozonation process for the Coquitlam water to get rid of giardia; "however, that was not effective enough against cryptosporidium," said Darrell Mussatto, chairperson of Metro Vancouver's utility board and mayor of North Vancouver city.
For years, the Coquitlam water had been treated only with chlorine and soda ash (sodium carbonate) for corrosion control and that will continue, Mussatto said, noting the UV filtration changes the DNA of the water-born parasites and makes the water safe to consume.
The multiple treatments of the tap water — supplied to one-third of Metro's 2.3 million residents — make it the "best in the world," touted Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart before the tour began.
Inside, Metro engineers showed how water from the Coquitlam reservoir — located in a secured area at the top of Pipeline Road — is pumped into eight reactor units, each containing 40 UV lamps, that will bring 97% clarity to the water.
The building itself is designed to meet silver LEED standards, with natural light, a green roof and EcoSmart concrete. And extensive habitat restoration has been done outside in the watershed.
Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore, who is also Metro Vancouver board chair, said Metro provides one billion litres of potable water a day to half of the province's population, with 200 million litres alone from the Coquitlam source daily. This year, the water rate Metro charges member municipalities is 63 cents for every 1,000 litres of water.
Metro controls three watersheds: Coquitlam, Capilano and Seymour, all of which have drinking water treatment facilities.