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30th January 2018
Mechanical malfunction blamed for Swan River's evaporating water supply

CBC News Posted: Jan 29, 2018 8:43 AM CT Last Updated: Jan 29, 2018 8:43 AM CT

Crews in Swan River, Man., have discovered the problem that led to a state of emergency and the town's potable water supply almost drying up.

A malfunction of some valves inside two of the town's three wells has affected the pump system. That has, in turn, prevented the well water from reaching the treatment plant, said deputy mayor Lance Jacobson.

A state of emergency was called Sunday after officials noticed water had mysteriously stopped flowing from the community's well to the water treatment plant around 8 p.m. CT Saturday.

While the mystery of the vanishing water supply has been solved, it remains to be determined when the town's 4,000 residents can turn their taps back on. Council members are gathering this morning with the work crews to get that answer.

"We're hoping, when we meet at 8 a.m., that we hear news that they're able to get water back feeding to the station, but I can't confirm that at this time yet," Jacobson said.

"If they were not able to get water running to the facility through the night, then our best estimate is that we were probably going to be pretty low in water or depleted by noon."

Initially, the problem was believed to be a break in the line that feeds the water treatment plant, but a lot of digging has proven that line "is perfectly fine," Jacobson said.

The valve problem is a far better scenario, he said.

He praised residents of the community, about 380 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, for responding so well to town officials' call for water conservation efforts.

The town's nearly 4,000 residents were told to reduce their water usage to just two litres per day for drinking and two litres per day for cooking and sanitation.

Schools are closed Monday and many businesses and restaurants have decided not to open, though Jacobson has heard some restaurants will offer "limited services."

"We were telling the public yesterday [Sunday] that it was going to be midnight [that the water supply could run out]," he said.

"But because of the efforts of the community on conserving water as best they possibly can, we were able to [keep] levels in our reservoir [higher than expected]. Everybody understands how critical the situation can be."

He also lauded the public works crews that have been pushing through the cold weather to solve the mystery.

"Until we can actually confirm that the state of emergency can be lifted," residents are still being urged to continue their conservation efforts, Jacobson said.

An emergency water station for potable water opened at 8 a.m. at the Swan Valley School Division trade centre while portable toilets are set up in the car wash bay at the Swan Valley Co-op.

The town's health centre, which is open, has water available through a tank system provided by disaster management officials. However, elective surgeries and dialysis treatments have been cancelled, with dialysis patients being moved to surrounding communities.

"We're gonna get through this," Jacobson said. "Hopefully we can get this taken care of by the end of the day."