(Steven Heywood/file photo)

Old Sidney wells will keep Town ‘treading water’ if quake happens

In the event of a major earthquake, securing food, water and shelter will be critical. In the case of water, Sidney still has its old wells, which would serve as a backup in case the CRD water supply should fail.

Sidney councillor Tim Chad said he was confident that the existing CRD water system, which pipes water from the Sooke reservoir, was good.

“It’s a good, sound, flexible system that will take an earthquake. I don’t think anybody is prepared for an eight or a nine,” he said. However, he said it could likely survive a lesser seismic event.

Water for the Peninsula comes from single 27 km line from Sooke, he said. Pressure is maintained by a tank on a mountain behind Panorama Recreation Centre. However, if any of that infrastructure is damaged, there are plans to use the old wells as backup. There is one well each on either side of the highway, one of which is used as a backup water supply for the Town’s gardens. It has a connection that can back up the CRD water system if necessary, but work on an expansion has not started yet.

“It hasn’t been touched, but it’s ready if we need to,” said Chad.

Sidney fire chief Brett Mikkelsen, who brought up the topic at an emergency preparedness meeting last month, said that it was prudent for emergency managers on the Peninsula to see what they had internally to keep the area “treading water” until the larger supply line could be fixed.

He mentioned the two wells at the meeting to emphasize that Sidney has maintained the capability, he said. Staff have been doing drawdown testing on the well to determine potential flow, and will pursue grant funding to buy the required infrastructure, which would ultimately create community filling stations with dedicates pumps and multiple spigots so community members could fill their own jugs. Purification tablets would likely be distributed as well in case the earthquake disturbs the source of the well water.

Mikkelsen said they are still determining what such a system would cost, because they have not finalized a procurement list for necessary equipment. They will do this one way or another, but they would prefer to time it with grant opportunities from various levels of government.

“We’re not going to wait seven years for the perfect grant opportunity,” said Mikkelsen, so if they had to fund it themselves, they would stage it so they would buy the pumps one year, the water manifolds the next year and the transportation method after that.

Mikkelsen said that while there is much to be determined, he is pleased that the department is “punching above our weight by pursuing this”

In general, emergency preparedness remains a priority for Sidney’s fire chief and elected officials.

Coun. Chad said that people should have enough supplies and safety equipment to last two weeks, not just 72 hours, but he stressed that it was his own personal opinion. When asked if he had supplies to last two weeks, he said, “You should see all the stuff I’ve got in my basement.”

He said a hot water tank, which typically stores between 40 and 60 gallons, is a good source for drinkable water in an emergency, but that is just one aspect of preparation.

“When an earthquake comes, people should be expected to look after themselves in excess of 72 hours.”


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