Examining our Past: Wabamun water issues resolved, at last

Editor's Note: This article originally ran Feb. 9, 2007.

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Editor’s Note: This article originally ran Feb. 9, 2007. 


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By Wes Gilbertson

Staff Writer

A common sight in the village of Wabamun for the past year-and-a-half, the water trucks will finally roll to a stop next week.

On Wednesday, a top official confirmed Wabamun’s new well-water system should be up and running within the next few days. Village council approved the changeover at a meeting on Tuesday morning.

According to village administrator Leagh Randle, all that’s left to do is iron out a few minor details, such as calibrating the pumps and integrating the new system.

“We’re ready to go,” he said. “We’ll just be doing some fine-tuning and we hope to have the system on line by Monday.”


The village has been trucking in water since August 2005, when a dozen CN Rail cars derailed on the north shore of Lake Wabamun, spilling more than 730,000 litres of bunker fuel into the water.

Prior to the spill, the lake was the primary source of drinking water for residences and businesses in the village, which is home to about 700 residents. Ever since, trucks have been hauling in between 300 and 600 cubic meters of water each day.

Village officials were hoping to hook up the new system prior to Christmas, when drilling of three water wells and an expansion of Wabamun’s water treatment facility was completed.

Both Alberta Environment and Capital Health declared the well water safe for consumption, but village officials stalled the process because of a slight discolouration.

Last week, before the issue was resolved, Randle said his goal was to ensure that Wabamun residents wouldn’t see or taste a difference when the new system was fired up.


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“We had very good quality water before, when we were able to take it out of Lake Wabamun,” he said. “What we are trying to do is make sure the quality of water we had before is the same we have now.”

Before jetting off to Hawaii for a vacation two weeks ago, Bill Purdy, the village mayor, vowed to address the issue before giving village officials the green light to hook up the system.

“I have tasted the water – there’s nothing wrong with it, but I just can’t say to the citizens here, who I represent, that we should go ahead and drink it,” he said.


Some new filtration equipment being installed at the village’s water treatment centre is expected to alleviate the discolouration concerns, but won’t be in place until May or June.

In the meantime, village employees have discovered a pre-filter additive that removes the yellowish colour from the water.

With the additional safeguard in place, Randle is confident the well water is “as good or better” than what has been hauled in from Edmonton’s EPCOR system for the past 18 months.

He explained that the clarity of eater is measured on a scale from zero to 100, with a lower number assigned to more clear water.

The benchmark for drinking water is 20.

Last week, Wabamun’s well water measured around 35. When treated with the pre-filtration additive, it measures closer to four.

“That’s more than satisfactory,” Randle said. “It’s almost perfect, really.”

Before making a final decision on Tuesday, village councillors sampled the water.

When the well water, which had been treated with a pre-filter additive, was compared to the EPCOR water being trucked in from Edmonton, nobody noticed a difference.

“What we are trying to do is make sure the quality of water we had before is the same we have now.”

Leagh Randle

Wabamun village administrator

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