Two wells offline as town makes water fixes

Part of the former village of Sussex Corner is running off Sussex's water system with two wells offline, according to the town's CAO.

Sussex council approved $113,000 in new money last week to help address issues with the well system in Ward 2, the former village of Sussex Corner. One of its two wells was closed in July over concerns about turbidity, and further analysis resulted in concerns over elevated levels of manganese, CAO Scott Hatcher said.

"As it stands today, two of the wells that were producing water in the former village of Sussex Corner are out of service ... as we work to remediate some of the issues in those wells that should have been addressed in prior years," Hatcher said.

Hatcher said provincially required equipment for chlorine and turbidity monitoring for all the wells have arrived and will need to be installed soon. The cost of connecting the new equipment to the town's automatic monitoring system was approved at $29,607.

Well no. 2 is the one with turbidity issues, and will require additional piping to install the monitors at a cost of $35,000. Engineers are still looking to solve the source of turbidity issues in well no. 2, Hatcher said, with one possible solution being that the pipe casing drilled into the bedrock has loosened with time and needs to be reseated.

"The well's a great producer, the well produces great water within the guidelines ... but when it rains, it's a problem," said Hatcher, who previously said if it can't be solved, the cost of drilling a new well would be significant.

Well no. 3 had issues with manganese, with Hatcher saying a reading in July showed 146 micrograms per litre, above the acceptable level of 120. Late in September, Hatcher said there were two complaints from residents who had dirty water in their plumbing, and Hatcher said the sampled showed visual signs of the mineral.

"Those elevated levels sort of started the whole discussion on what's going on here in Well 3, and why wasn't this addressed before?" Hatcher said. "We look at the last five years of results, and clearly there's a trend that someone should have said wait a minute, we've got a problem here."

Hatcher said issues with manganese can include "nuisance" elements of spots on laundry. New Brunswick guidelines say that exceeding the "maximum acceptable" level does not provide an immediate health problem, and would require long periods of exposure for slight increases to health risk.

He said the well has now been shut down, with parts of Ward 2 set up on the water system for Ward 1, the former town, to ensure the houses still have water. He said the plan is to acidify the well, "slosh" it to loosen any encrusted minerals, throw out the water and neutralize the pH balance so it's usable again. Council approved $48,700 for acidification last week.

Former Sussex Corner mayor Wayne Wilkins, who served from June 2021 until amalgamation in 2022, said that he wasn't aware of the issues during his term.

"I didn't know anything about this manganese or the turbidity problems that we supposedly had," Wilkins said. "As part of the maintenance, you rely on the people you hire to do the task of water testing, and it's certainly no fault of anybody."

Wilkins said he's spoken to chemists to suggest that manganese levels are often higher in the summer, and that high levels of rain may have led to the high levels. He said the village's finances were in good enough shape to cover possible maintenance, and they took other measures to safeguard the weels.

"It's unfortunate that we didn't know," Wilkins said. "I do take responsibility for it, but I didn't know it was occurring."

The new expenses add to previously approved costs of $60,000 for the sensors and $130,000 to undertake the turbidity and manganese work on the two wells.

Hatcher said he was hoping to complete the work by the end of October, but it's now looking like the end of November, with contractors arriving on Nov. 6. Work on the wastewater pumping station on Stewart Avenue, which had been waiting on a generator, is expected to be finished by November, he said.

Also on Monday last week, council voted to approve a tender for $528,784 to Friar's Excavation to replace water mains on St. George Street, where old water mains were left in while new mains were installed to serve Kent Building Supplies, Hatcher said.

Funding for the project may be part of the town's $6.7 million application under the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation's Housing Accelerator Fund, according to Hatcher.

Andrew Bates, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal