Town officials have confirmed effluent and treated water is no longer flowing into the Bow River from the water and wastewater lines damaged by a contractor working on the sanitary syphon project on Oct. 21.
"We are still hauling and still maintaining a much lower level and we are not free-flowing. wastewater into the Bow River at this time," said Fire Chief Shawn Polley, deputy director of Emergency Management. "At this time, we have a certainly reduced flow. The weather is certainly assisting us with the cooler weather."
Besides the cleanup, a major focus is restoring the reservoir level. In addition to the level 3 water restriction put in place yesterday morning, other measures were announced earlier today, including the temporary closure of the SLS Centre that came into effect at 12 noon.
"These steps are not enough to resolve the situation alone," said Town CAO Mike Derrricott. "Our water reservoirs, which we use to store safe, potable drinking water that we provide to all of Cochrane as well as maintain fire suppression capability, are at critical levels. To ensure that we maintain our ability to provide service, we're asking residents and businesses to work with us to provide to reduce their water usage wherever possible."
The town has been looking at sourcing water from other jurisdictions should the need arise.
"We're starting with the community of Harmony, which has the proximity as well as access to water that will be most effective at this stage," said Derricott.
No timeline has been established for site remediation, the removal of level 3 water restrictions, or the return of public access to the areas impacted.
"In terms of the repair, typically our crews are very effective once they can isolate and access the break, stop the flow of water, repair can typically be done quite quickly," said Derricott. "We do think we are going to be in a state of water conservation measuring at least into the days. It does take some time to recharge those stores once they've been depleted. So likely at least a few days we'll be asking people to conserve water."
Chief Polley confirmed both the water and wastewater lines were impacted when a contractor was setting up for a drilling operation at 6 p.m. on Oct. 21, causing wastewater to discharge directly into the Bow and a significant loss of water from the town's water storage facilities. At 8:30 p.m. the town activated its emergency coordination centre.
By 9:45 p.m. an alert was issued.
"In any situation, there's a period of time ensuring the right people have the information, activating the Emergency Coordination Center, and then making the appropriate notification to the community," says CAO Derricott. "And so we're pretty comfortable those timelines happened as efficiently and as appropriately as they could. It just takes a matter of time to understand the best response and to get the appropriate messaging out there."
At this point, they have not had the opportunity to assess the effectiveness of the alert, something rarely used in Cochrane.
There have been some in the community who have indicated they didn't receive the alert.
"We haven't had a chance to assess that in the big picture," said Derricott. "Our understanding is that it was quite effective in terms of learning the community. It will be a part of our debrief, which we always do in these types of situations to learn as much as we possibly can about how we interacted with the incident and to improve it going. forward."
Exactly how much wastewater has flown into the Bow is difficult to calculate at this point because there was a mixture of both effluent and treated water, said Derricott.
"I think it's fair to say that it's been a significant amount, but we're not prepared to give any specifics at this," he said.
Nor were they in a position to comment on who will be footing the bill, or the total cost, and said they are currently focusing upon the town's response and mitigation efforts.
The construction of an additional wastewater syphon pipe began the second week of October to increase Cochrane’s capacity for managing and transferring wastewater.
Town council received a briefing following the press conference.
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