Cause of Kamloops water treatment plant shutdown likely to remain a mystery - InfoNews

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Cause of Kamloops water treatment plant shutdown likely to remain a mystery

March 15, 2017 - 4:49 PM

KAMLOOPS - The cause of the emergency at the Kamloops water treatment facility last week my go unsolved, but the municipality is working on plans to make sure the city doesnt' find itself in the same position again.

Around 4 a.m. on March 8, a cable broke between one of the two transformers connected to the facility and the plant itself. The issue left the plant inoperable for several hours as the City asked residents to limit water usage. And while the exact cause is unknown, the city is working on plans to better deal with similar issues in the future.

Public works director Jen Fretz says while backup power did come on, the computer programming which syncs the plant stopped working so the treatment plant wouldn’t process water.

“We have a backup power source for the programming,” she says. “That functioned fine.”

“For whatever reason (the power problem) caused an issue with the actual program. We don’t know what it was.”

The city is currently working on a five year plan for computer updates throughout the water system which would help identify issues like this in the future, Fretz says, but hasn’t gotten to the updates for the water treatment plant computers yet, as they weren’t the highest priority.

“We went in order of priority and the water plant wasn’t high on the priority list,” she says. “It wasn’t a high degree of concern for us so we didn’t do it first.”

When the incident happened it also left the city without water entering the distribution system for awhile. As the system directs all water through the treatment plant, if the plant goes down, water doesn’t enter the systems highlift water pumps. A bypass pipe does exist, Fretz says, with water treated only with chlorine, but the city hadn’t gotten to the point of turning it on.

“As part of the emergency response on Wednesday we tried to figure out 'if we need water, can we push water through the treatment plant?' and the answer is no,” Fretz says.

The City was about to test the bypass pipe when the computer issue was resolved. City administration decided not to run the test because the water treatment plant would have to be shut down again.

“Going forward we will do that test working with Interior Health,” Fretz says.

The issue of where and how water enters the city's water system will be resolved by the end of the year when a new intake from the North Thompson River is finished, she says. From that intake, chlorinated water will be able to be diverted into the system.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brendan Kergin or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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