Newell Regional Service Corporation

The best in infrastructure

In a few months time, the residents of the County of Newell No. 4 in south east Alberta will be enjoying the most modern and up-to-date water treatment plant in the province.

The County of Newell No.4 is a picturesque county comprised of villages, Hamlets, Towns and the City of Brooks, that previously had multiple water treatment plants serviced from individual communities—all  incurring individual maintenance costs, repair costs and ascending budgets.  The communities, realizing they were faced with outdated water treatment facilities and service model, decided to approach the issue collectively and, through government funding and pooling of resources, formed a corporation to upgrade the vital infrastructure operate and maintain a central Water Treatment Facility and operate and maintain water and wastewater systems in the communities.

From that decision came the Newell Regional Service Corporation (NRSC), comprised of the  Communities of the County of Newell No.4, the city of Brooks, the town of Bassano, and the villages of Tilley, Rosemary and Duchess. The Corporation was created as a body that would coordinate and pool resources with surrounding member communities to provide safe, effective and efficient water treatment, and distribution that will ensure all services meet rigid safety, quality, and reporting parameters of Federal, Provincial, Local and Water Industry Standards.

The existing water plants in these communities required major upgrades according to Ralph Havinga, C.E.T., General Manager of the NRSC. “In order to provide water to all of the communities that came together to form the NRSC, the water treatment plant had to be expanded for capacity and compliance regulation,” he says. To do that to all eight of the plants would require money which would have placed a heavy financial burden on each community. The group of communities applied for money available under a provincial grant to upgrade one central plant and funds for installation of the transmission mains.

Water for Life Program

“The project consists of upgrades and expansion of the Brooks Water Treatment Plant and water transmission mains to each of the member municipalities from the Water Treatment Plant in Brooks,” says Havinga. “The total cost of the project was estimated to be $45 million.  Under the Water for Life Program, the Province of Alberta provided a grant totalling $37 million with the City of Brooks and County of Newell No.4 providing the balance of the funds.”

Project design work started in 2007 and the first pipeline tender went out late 2008, water treatment tender in 2009 and various pipeline tenders out since then. As of October 2010, the water treatment plant is just about completed construction. As communities are getting connected, water that is produced from the Water Treatment Plant in Brooks goes through transmission mains to various communities.

Four of the five water transmission mains are almost complete, leaving the NRSC with the task of turning off the former water treatment plants in those communities in order to accept water from the transmission main, scheduled for completion by April 2011. Additionally, says Havinga, there is one further component, to the town of Bassano, which joined as a member community as a shareholder.  “Because they have a relatively new water treatment plant there was not a consideration to extend the pipeline to Bassano at the present time. That has since changed and they have applied for an extension to the grant for installation of the transmission main.”

The project has proceeded smoothly enough that a secondary component has been planned to connect rural residents in the County as well. The County will fund the estimated $50 million price tag of the project, slated for completion in five to seven years.

Ambitious goal

All projects are compliant to Alberta Environmental regulations and are subject to raw water quality testing and chemical analysis of produced water. “Our directive from the Board of Directors, consisting of elected officials from Shareholder communities, is to provide safe, effective and efficient water services to all the rural and urban customers. It’s an ambitious goal but one that will provide an economic benefit,” says Havinga. “Having potable water provided from one central plant is an efficient way to provide these services. We have provincial-certified operators to maintain these facilities that are looking towards sustainability and economics of scale.”

The NRSC has used foresight and smart planning to capitalize on government grants to deliver the most efficient and cost-saving water treatment plan to the citizens of the County of Newell No. 4.

Their success with the plan is indicative that it is not only the urban centres in Canada that can facilitate the best in infrastructure.