Directors agree Church Road wells could help solve SCRD water woes

A well site has been identified in Granthams Landing that could supply water to up to 6,500 people during a drought – enough to reduce the projected water supply deficit of the Chapman Creek system by 40 per cent.

“Stunning, awesome, amazing, unbelievable,” said West Howe Sound director Mark Hiltz in response to the report before pointing to one of its conclusions – that the results of the testing “suggest that the groundwater resources on this part of the Sunshine Coast are larger than previously thought.”

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The proposed well field consists of at least two wells located in the Church Road area in Granthams Landing. According to the 2013 Comprehensive Regional Water Plan, the current Granthams Landing well serves approximately 195 people.

“The pumping tests were very, very good,” said Marta Green, a representative for Associated Environmental Consultants, which conducted the groundwater investigation. She shared the highly anticipated results of Phase 2 of the groundwater search, which entailed test drilling four sites across the Coast, analyzing the results and providing recommendations, at a Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) infrastructure committee meeting last Thursday.

The results of three other potential well sites – Grey Greek, Dusty Road in Sechelt and Mahan Road in Elphinstone – were also shared. The Church Road Well scored the highest among the four well sites tested, and would also be the most expensive, with an estimated cost of $3.1 million to develop it and an additional $79,000 for annual operations.

The Soames well was recently upgraded and would remain operational, but moving ahead with the Church Road well field could save the SCRD “several hundred thousand dollars,” according to Remko Rosenboom, manager of infrastructure services for the SCRD, because the Granthams Landing Well, which is in need of upgrades, would be decommissioned.

The water from the new wells would be supplied “during drought situations” only, according to Rosenboom, and would service areas along Reed, North and Stewart roads in SCRD’s Zone 3. The next phase of the project will determine whether the water could also be distributed to Elphinstone and areas in Roberts Creek during periods of drought.

In her presentation, Green relayed the report’s findings that the water is high quality. “You guys have absolutely beautiful water,” she said, adding that the only treatment required would be to protect against viruses since the wells would be located in a residential neighbourhood with septic sites. The Church Road site also presents few risks for contamination.

Directors voted unanimously for the permitting costs of the Church Road well field to be brought forward as a budget item. But as recommended by the consultants, directors voted not to move ahead with the Dusty Road site because of the risk of contamination due to its proximity to Lehigh Quarry, which is expected to expand into the site area.

As for the Gray Creek and Mahan Road sites, too much uncertainty has forced caution. The site testers weren’t able to tap into an aquifer at the Grey Creek site but they expect to find a suitable location nearby on private property. It has potential to be a high-yield well. The prospects were similar for Mahan Road, but its location has raised concerns over its potential impact on the aquifer the Town of Gibsons uses to supply its residents, so staff recommended not pursuing the Mahan Well until a framework for a groundwater protection plan is developed. During her presentation, Green noted they “did see interference” in nearby wells, and they expect there will be minimal interference with Town of Gibsons artesian wells.

Directors voted for staff to analyze the feasibility of both sites and present their findings at the end of 2019, rather than move ahead with the permitting process.

The report also noted the possibility for connecting the well field to the Henry Road reservoir, which supplies water to Zone 3 of the Chapman System.

If the funds for the permitting process are approved in the 2019 budget, one of the catches with the Church Road Well will be the degree to which it impacts the aquatic environment in the area – an important consideration for the groundwater use licence application process. The Church Road Well is connected to Soames Creek through the Granthams Landing Well and a production well could reduce the flow into the creek, which would change the aquatic environment. 

Directors spent more than an hour discussing the technical details in the report, and strategizing how to move ahead as quickly as possible with sites promising the highest yield.

If the SCRD is able to acquire a water licence from the province, the well field could be operational by 2022.

The report also revealed that more information about groundwater on the Sunshine Coast could be coming soon, because the province is updating maps of all of its aquifers, with results expected to be released in the third quarter of 2019.

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