Conserving Hudson’s potable water leak by leak
THE JOURNAL FILE PHOTO/CARMEN MARIE FABIO
Puddles of water that accumulated in front of a house on Lower Maple late last year were indicative of at least one instance of underground potable water leaks.
The subject of plugging the leaks in Hudson’s municipal water system came up during the second question period at the February 5 council meeting when resident Roald Longhi asked if the town had a water conservation plan they intend to implement in the near future.
Mayor Jamie Nicholls said the priority has been the completion of the new well installation project. The previous town council approved a loan by-law in October 2017 to pay for the drilling of a new well to improve the potable water supply of the town. Ideally, it will be installed within the vicinity of current wells to take advantage of existing infrastructure. The project is expected to take place in three phases; ground preparation and compensation for wetlands, drilling and construction, and exploitation of the well.
Nicholls also said he and other councillors would be attending the upcoming Federation of Canadian Municipalities Sustainable Communities Conference in Ottawa. “It’s definitely a conversation we will have at the next sitting of caucus,” said the mayor regarding water conservation.
“One of our priorities is to trace as many of the water leaks in the town system as possible,” added Councillor Jim Duff. “There is no agreement on the amount of water we are losing from the system.”
Finding the leaks
Councillor Duff went into detail regarding the water leakage issue in an interview on Monday, February 12. “There were reports from (consulting engineer firm) EXP Inc. last year which said we were losing 18 per cent of our water to leakage. There was another report by Paul Boudreau of Public Works that estimated the loss at five per cent,” said Duff.
Tracking leakage in an underground maze of pipes is not easy. According to the councillor, it’s partly a matter of acting when the problem surfaces. He pointed to the recent situation of leaks in the system in front of the IGA in Hudson during sub-zero weather in early January this year and on Lower Maple Street in 2017.
Problems and solutions
“The main lines are in good condition, they’re made of high quality material,” Duff said. The leakage problem stems from the deterioration of the connecting devices known as saddles for the pipes between the main line and the building being serviced. “When the water main system was put in during the 1980s, the saddles were made with pressed steel,” said Duff adding the material deteriorates over time in the soil. “The solution is to replace them with cast bronze saddles,” he said. Some of the deteriorating saddles are difficult to find because the buildings they serviced no longer exist.
Longhi, in an interview on Monday, February 12, said a water conservation committee would develop and promote an efficient water conservation plan for the town. “It could save millions of dollars in the coming years and postpone the urgent need for an expensive water treatment plant,” he said. He also said low flush toilets could significantly reduce potable water consumption.
“Perhaps, as an incentive, the town would subsidize this for participants, through the reduction of municipal tax,” said Longhi. He cited the possibility of not using municipal water for filling new swimming pools and refilling existing pools in the spring. Pool owners would be obliged to truck in water supplied by companies for that purpose.
“All of these ideas are laudable,” said Duff. “The problem is that people are used to water coming out of the tap and that’s all they want to know about.” He said Hudson once had a program that hired students to go door-to-door during the summer peak consumption period encouraging residents to turn off their sprinkler systems. “It was a persuasive measure, rather than coercive.” In his view, retrofitting homes with low flow toilets could prove to be expensive and difficult to promote.
Both the councillor and Longhi agreed on two essential points: residents would have to fully support any water conservation plan proposed by the town and that a haphazard approach to the problem would not work.