Reporter’s Notebook: More Water Problems at Tobermory Community Centre

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By John Francis, Bruce Peninsula Press

The community centre in Tobermory is a wonderful facility. It has been busy hundreds of days a year ever since it was built, 35 years ago. Wedding and funeral receptions, parties, Sources of Knowledge Forums, concerts, dances, exercise classes, winter pickleball, Hallowe’en Spooktaculars, bazaars, community breakfasts, lunches and dinners — the list goes on.

The community centre is also the backbone of Tobermory’s emergency preparedness plan. A few years ago it got a large back-up generator so it can operate at full capacity during power failures. It is currently in the middle of a (long overdue) kitchen upgrade. It will be able to accommodate and feed hundreds of people if needed.

It has everything it could possibly want — except water.

There was no trouble with the well in the early years, but as the village grew, the area got more crowded. It started when the Bradley Davis Apartments were built across the road — a dozen or fifteen people drawing their water from (presumably) the same aquifer as the community centre. Then the ambulance station and the fire hall piggybacked on the community centre well, as did the washrooms/concession booth at the adjacent ball diamond. New homes and businesses sprang up on all sides of the community centre and existing homes and businesses were occupied by more people, more months of the year.

As the water demand in the area steadily increased, the water supply at the community centre steadily deteriorated. Sometimes the well would run dry during summer droughts; sometimes the water would become cloudy and undrinkable after droughts or storms. Increasingly, the municipality was forced to truck water up the peninsula to keep the community centre operating. Large holding tanks were installed a few years ago and that helped for awhile, but the “underlying” problem remains — there isn’t enough water in the aquifer to service all the wells that are drawing from it.

Public Works Manager Troy Cameron provided a report to MNBP Council for its Oct 23 Meeting. Here is an excerpt from that report:

“Over the past few years there have been many ongoing issues with the well at the Tobermory Community Centre. The well is GUDI which means that the water in the well has Groundwater Under the Direct Influence of surface water. The Tobermory Community Centre well struggles with both the quantity and quality of water.

“When there is peak demand on the system there is not enough water to run the system, which in turn affects the quality of water because the well is overtaxed and causes turbidity in the well. High turbidity levels are also experienced after a heavy rainfall or snow melt event because the groundwater in the well is under the direct influence of surface water or GUDI.

The well currently supplies water to the Community Centre, Fire Hall, EMS Building and also to the ball diamond concession stand/washrooms and new washrooms in the Community Centre parking lot during the summer months.

“The previously installed bulk water tanks have immensely helped with the operations of the water system and have certainly reduced the events that system ran out of water and needed to be shut down. During this past summer, to keep up with the water demands we had to haul in 3 truckloads of water in July, 9 truckloads in August and 5 truckloads in September. If it was not for the bulk water storage available, we may have had to shut down the water system and facilities due to lack of water in the well.

“However, even with the bulk water storage OCWA operators continue to have operational struggles to ensure the system remains functioning and is able keep up with the demand on the system.”

Comments:

“The municipality in conjunction with OCWA and WSP is currently in the process of completing a Water and Wastewater Master Plan for both the Tobermory and Lion’s Head Villages. The report will give some options for potential alternatives that Council may explore in the future to solve the well water issues. However, even after the report has been completed it may be some time before any permanent solution for the Tobermory Community Centre may be implemented.”

Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA) operates the well on MNBP’s behalf. They recommended that the well undergo cleaning and maintenance, cleaning the well to its full depth of 221 feet, removing fouling and sediment and conducting a video inspection of the well casing, rock walls and screen. This will give MNBP a much better understanding of what the problems are, and might (but might not…) improve the situation somewhat.

Council voted unanimously to undertake the recommended procedure. But they acknowledged that this is not a solution. Manager Cameron stated that he hopes the community centre can remain open using trucked-in water while the well procedure is conducted.