Hay River is looking ahead to a potential project that could combat the town’s ongoing water safety troubles.

At a city council meeting while discussing the ongoing boil water advisory, senior administrative officer Glenn Smith, said while the current water treatment plant, which is over 40 years old, is almost certainly not the cause of the frequent boil water advisories in Hay River the past few months, there had been conversations about building a new water treatment plant.

“Technology has come a long way in all areas over the last 40 years including water treatment,” Hay River director of public works Mike Auge wrote in an email. “The equipment that we use in our water treatment plant is still operating as designed, but there is obviously new and better equipment on the market than there was when this plant was built – so there are definitely improvements that could be made.” 

“At this point in time we don’t have any firm timelines or costs associated with a new water treatment plant, but it is on our radar as a key piece of infrastructure for the Town.”

Hay River and several neighbouring communities have already been put under three different boil water advisories this summer, spending more than 60 days under boil-water advisories this year.

The first began on May 13 and ended on June 16, with the second running from June 19 to July 6. The ongoing boil water advisory has been in place since September 2.

But a new water treatment plant would represent a significant outlay for the town.

Yellowknife completed construction on a new water treatment plant back in 2015, ending a month-long boil water advisory that was in place at the time. The plant cost $32.5 million.

Hay River’s water treatment was inspected this summer by Municipal and Community Affairs, with the town currently awaiting a report from that inspection. 

“We expect that the report will help us in determining both short- and long-term priorities for the plant and will likely give us a much better idea of the timelines we can expect as well as the costs associated with any necessary improvements,” wrote Auge. 

“Until we receive the report, it’s difficult to accurately pinpoint any timelines for upgrades.”

Residents are advised to boil all water before drinking, preparing food, making ice, or brushing teeth, for at least one minute. 

Residents do not have to boil water for other household purposes, including bathing, but are encouraged to avoid swallowing any water.