Hay River’s water treatment plant cannot consistently meet health standards, according to a report into Hay River’s facilities.

The Municipal and Community Affairs report said the current plant is showing signs of degradation, and isn’t big enough to have new filters installed which would bring the plant up to standard.

The report recommends Hay River constructs a new water treatment plant, at an estimated cost of $15 million. Finding that kind of capital would be a significant challenge for the town, said councillor Keith Dohey.

MACA recommends the work begin in the next five years.

That figure is based on the cost of similar projects done in the Northwest Territories, as engineering design work hasn’t been done, according to Justin Hazenberg, the Engineering Team Lead for Water and Sanitation for the GNWT.

Trying to retrofit the current building could cause a lot of headaches, said Hazenberg.

“If we tried to retrofit, we’d have to deal with all the issues of the current building,” said Hazenberg. “You never really know what’s wrong with everything until you start taking it apart.”

The current water plant was built in 1986, but does not have coagulation and flocculation filters. These filters circulate chemicals which help treat the water, but these would take up more space than is available in the current facility.

The current facility can still work in some circumstances, said Hazenberg, but isn’t equipped for Hay River’s water quality.

“It might be appropriate for an Arctic lake that’s pristine that never sees any run-off, but for your situation it just can’t keep up,” said Hazenberg.

Hay River has spent more than 80 days under boil water advisories this year, with the most recent one ending on October 20.

The report also recommended hiring an additional water treatment plant operator. Hay River currently only has one.

Mayor Kandis Jameson said MACA had been setting up training sessions for water treatment plant operators, but these had been delayed by COVID-19.