What to do with the old iconic water tower?

Sarah Gore, Project Manager with J. L. Richards confers with Troy Dunlop, Smiths Falls Director of Public Works and Utilities before her presentation to Council May 22. Photo credit: Sally Smith
Posted on: May 23, 2018

Sally Smith

The Town of Smiths Falls has given itself a long lead-in time before it really has to start thinking about what to do with the iconic water tower in the middle of town.

It’s 90 years old now; it has another 10 years at the very most until it’s “done-done,” says the Town’s Director of Public Works and Utilities, Troy Dunlop. But between now and then “we’ll be facing more unplanned work just trying to stay ahead,” he adds.

Sarah Gore, Project Manager with J. L. Richards and Assoc. Ltd. presented a Phase 2 update of what has happened, what is happening, and what has to happen to water storage requirements to meet Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) standards.

At the moment the Town owns and operates a communal potable water supply system for the Town which includes Atironto subdivision in the Township of Montague. The system consists of a new surface water treatment plant (2010), a dedicated distribution system, and an elevated potable water storage tank.

The tank is the problem. While the system meets all required water quality standards, the tower does not meet storage requirements. It needs, and somewhat quickly, refurbishment or replacement that will address storage constraints right now and up to 2037, and beyond.

This exercise is not unusual, says Gore, responding to a question from Councillor Joe Gallipeau. Mississippi Mills is doing the same configuring, as is Carleton Place.

The Town of Smiths Falls is growing. The 2017 residential population, according to Gore’s presentation was 9,130; the 2037 population is expected to be 10,679 with a build-out capacity to 14,601. For that many people, the system has to provide, on an average day, to the build-out capacity 10,000 (m3/d).

At the moment the tower and the reservoir have 1,820 (m3) usable storage; the total storage recommended (for fire, equalization and emergency) is 6,281 (m3).

What to do? There are three possible approaches – do nothing, maintain the existing tower and construct new storage, or decommission the existing tower and construct new storage.

The study suggests probable costs. To rehabilitate the existing tower will cost $1.9M just to stabilize. To decommission the existing tower and build a new elevated tank in the same place would cost $5.7M to $6.8M. To build a new tower on Air Care Drive (one proposed site) would cost $7.8M to $8.9M. To build a new tower on Second Street (a second proposed site) would cost $7.3M to $8.4M.

The preferred location is Air Care Drive.

Dunlop’s thought was that “maybe the best place is not where it (the tower) is today. The tank will be larger.” Councillor Allen commented that everyone loves the iconic water tower and no one would want the mushroom-shaped proposed tower.

If nothing is done for four or five years, asked Mayor Pankow, what would happen. There would be “some level of investment,” Dunlop replied, adding that an inspection of the interior of the bowl is scheduled for this year. And the Town would have to undertake more “risk management.”

A public information session is scheduled for Tuesday, June 12 from 5-7 p.m. at the Smiths Falls Curling Club, 13 Old Slys Road.

One thought on “What to do with the old iconic water tower?

  1. Peter Nauer

    Why is the cost for a new tower on Air Care Drive about $2M more than decommission the existing and build a new at the same site?

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