City celebrates opening of new raw water pump house

From left to right – Capital Projects Manager Nykol Miller, Ward 7 Coun. Dawn Kilmer, MLA Joe Hargrave, Mayor Greg Dionne, MLA Alana Ross, Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody, and Water Treatment Plant Manager Andy Busse cut a ribbon to mark the opening of the new Raw Water Pump House on Friday afternoon -- Bailey Sutherland/Daily Herald

The City of Prince Albert officially announced the completion of the raw water pump house construction project that was built to protect the river’s ecosystem in mind, while providing reliable and quality service to all residents of the community for many more years to come.

“The raw water pump house is the first step of providing high quality drinking water to the residents of Prince Albert which is one of the most important services that we provide,” said Mayor Greg Dionne. “The original raw water pump house was built in 1923 so this project was a high priority.”

Construction for the new facility began in the fall of 2020 and became fully operational on Sept. 21, 2022. The five-story building extends 15.9 metres below ground and 2.3 metres below river level and is located across from the water treatment plant on River Street West.

The new raw water pump house runs 24-hours a day, seven-days a week pumping an average of 16,000 cubic metres of water a day. The new design protects the river’s ecosystem through a screening and monitoring process that safely removes debris and diverts fish and other aquatic species back into the river, resulting in pumping efficiencies and energy savings.

“The biggest difference at the new water pump house is we have travelling water streams which will allow us to recycle the aquatic species back to the river, so small fish and vertebrae will go back without being harmed,” said Water Treatment Plant Manager, Andy Busse, during a tour of the facility on Friday afternoon. “Our previous site only had a very large screen and no way to return aquatic species back to the river, so that was a big step forward for us to be able to meet those regulations for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.”

The new water pump house also features independent dual drain systems. Busse said this allows for one side to remain operation if the other needs to be shut down for routine maintenance or repairs.

The two year long, $18.9 million project was partially funded through the federal Canada Community-Building Fund program. The Government of Canada contributed more than $10.25 million towards the construction of the new raw water pump house, with the City of Prince Albert funding the remaining costs.

“Our Government is investing in a reliable and effective water treatment system in communities across the country,” said Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities, Dominic LeBlanc in a media release. “Prince Albert’s new water treatment facility will ensure the continued well-bring of residents and the North Saskatchewan River’s ecosystem while supporting long-term growth in the region.”

The new facility is located beside the almost 100-year-old original raw water pump house, which was responsible for pumping raw water from the North Saskatchewan River to the water treatment plant for treatment, storage, and distribution up until the opening of the new building earlier this fall.

The Low Lift Pump House consists of an intake, wet wells, pumps, a rudimentary screening structure, a boiler system for seasonally clearing ice and a potassium permanganate dosing system, with the oldest portions of the facility dating back to 1920.

“Staff safety is huge,” said Busse. “We’re going to be way more efficient in cleaning and maintaining the new pump house versus entering wells that were approaching 100 years old, failing ladders, concrete that was starting to fall and structural integrity of the facility.”

Director of Public Works, Wes Hicks, said due to the deteriorating and unsafe conditions of the old facility, it will be demolished and filled with concrete beginning in the summer of 2023.