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‘The wait was worth it’: Rouleau, Wilcox celebrate new water treatment plant

The new water treatment plant cost $10.6 million and will serve both communities for at least the next 25 years.

Residents in Rouleau and Wilcox and surrounding rural municipalities can enjoy clean, quality drinking water now that construction of a new water treatment plant is finished.

More than a dozen people — including both mayors, municipal officials, provincial dignitaries, and project contractors — gathered in Rouleau on Sept. 28 for a grand opening ceremony to celebrate the $10.6 million regional water system project. 

The plant has been operational for several weeks. About 550 people each live in Rouleau and Wilcox and will benefit, along with regional landowners and businesses. 

“It’s really good. (Wilcox Mayor) Wayne (Hoffart) and I and a few others have been waiting a long time for. It’s great to see it happen,” said Grant Clarke, Rouleau mayor and event MC.

“It takes planning and working and working together … . But I’ll tell ya, the wait was worth it.”

Planning and design work began around 2018, while construction started in July 2020. The project involved expanding the wastewater lagoon system near Rouleau, building a new potable reverse osmosis water line between Rouleau and Wilcox, building a new pumphouse for potable reverse osmosis water in Wilcox and a new water treatment plant in Rouleau.

Through the federal Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP), Ottawa contributed $4,242,300, the province kicked in $3,534,896 and both towns contributed $2,822,804.

Travis Keisig, MLA for Last Mountain-Touchwood, brought greetings from area MLA Lyle Stewart. He then commended the towns for bringing the project to fruition.

“Today, we’re here to mark the best milestone of any infrastructure project: the finish. (Today is) the grand opening, and it’s definitely cause for celebration,” he said. “This new regional water system project now exists because people worked together to make it happen.”

The provincial government is pleased to have supported this project, which shows its dedication to infrastructure investments, Keisig added. Since 2019, the province has supported more than 240 ICIP projects. 

Lin Watt, manager of water with engineering team Tetra Tech of Canada, said her company thought this project was the “perfect fit” to pursue three years ago after it completed similar projects in Manitoba. She joked that she was excited to come to Dog River — the fictional town from the TV show “Corner Gas” — even if just to visit.

“But three years later, and many, many site trips later, I think everyone here can be really proud of what we’ve accomplished … ,” she continued. “Through sheer grit and determination and a whole lot of work … I think we are in a really good place today.”

Watt also thanked Alan Hansen, Rouleau town councillor, for keeping the team focused along the way. Other speakers also commended Hansen’s efforts, with one speaker saying he was “instrumental in keeping things from bogging down.” 

Both towns can now offer good, clean water, while businesses can offer tap water instead of bottled H2O, said Clarke. Most residents drank from bottled water over the years — tap water was safe but was cloudy and tasted poor. 

Clarke has not heard any complaints for residents about the new water but knows some people removed their water softeners while others shut down their reverse osmosis devices.

From 1911 to the early 1970s, Rouleau used a large brick building to supply its electrical and water needs. It phased out that venue — it stands beside the new plant — and used an 80-foot water tower for the past 50 years. Meanwhile, Wilcox pulled its water from a well beside the tower. 

Both towns have worked together since 1968 on water production because there is an underground aquifer in Rouleau.

“Basically, we’ve got 10 times the storage capacity now because underneath the plant — and the one in Wilcox as well —there (are) huge storage tanks there for fighting fires or emergencies,” Clarke added. “It’s a relief to know that you’re gonna have all kinds of water.

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