Coal shutdowns could affect water services

While many people have voiced concerns about the future of communities in which coal mining and coal electricity generating...

While many people have voiced concerns about the future of communities in which coal mining and coal electricity generating stations function, a lesser-known issue involves water infrastructure.

The Sheerness Generating Station, jointly owned by ATCO Electric and TransAlta, brings in a lot of water to the station to provide cooling to the generators inside. The water is then put through a water treatment plant and served up on the Henry Kroeger Regional Water Services Commission.

While much of Stettler, both town and county, are serviced by the Shirley McLellan Regional Water Services Commission, on the very south edge of the county lies the hamlet of Byemoor, which receives water from the Kroeger commission.

The possibility of a shutdown of Sheerness has great implications, according to Hanna’s mayor, Chris Warwick.

“There’s a lot of pipe running on Kroeger,” Warwick said, explaining that the line runs to Delia and Byemoor, to Acadia Valley, and east to Oyen and everywhere in between.

Without ATCO pumping in water to Sheerness, which is what would happen if the generating station is not converted after the coal shutdown in the province, the communities on the Kroeger commission will have to take over the operating costs, which are quite high, Warwick explained.

“It costs about $70k-90k a year to run,” he said of the water commission. “The biggest issue is that there’s not a lot of users on the line, which means expenses are higher.”

There’s talk right now of replacing the line to Hanna and Delia, which had a major break earlier this year, Warwick said.

In addition to the water sent through the commission, there’s also a secondary water canal which sends water away from the plant. Much of this water is used by ranchers and farmers to water their herds and irrigate the crops. Would that water still run if Sheerness closes?

Warwick said that while the government is aware of the issues, and while tentative reassurances have been offered, there’s still a lot of questions and uncertainty floating in the air about the future of not only the communities, but the water commission as well.