Some walk-in coolers and freezers are costing Nelson thousands of liters of water and putting wear and tear on its sewage treatment plant, city council has heard.
Those findings were contained in the first phase of a water loss mitigation study by Kootenay-Columbia Environmental Innovations (CEI) that wrapped up in June. The firm inspected 59 Nelson businesses.
CEI consultant Rory Gallaugher says they discovered some businesses had so-called once-through cooling units (OTCs) that pass fresh water through a coil to cool down hot coolant. The water then goes down the drain.
“We haven’t really addressed those because we didn’t know they were out there but when we had the water meters in there we could see that they were operating,” he said.
Gallaugher has calculated the 18 walk-in coolers and freezers should be using a total of 29 million liters of water a year (79,000 liters of water a day) while the 14 water-cooled ice machines go through about 600,000 liters (15,000 liters of water a day) – if they’re working properly.
The OTCs, which are found mostly in hotels, restaurants and grocery stores, are illegal under Nelson’s current bylaws. “They are not allowed in our system. They should never have been installed but apparently they were,” CAO Kevin Cormack said.
During this month’s budget meeting, councillors were shocked to see an example of a failing OTC in a downtown business that was using 500 liters of water an hour during business hours. The building manager is in Calgary.
“What we see here in this image is a half-inch copper pipe with water coming out just completely at full blast. It’s controlled by the thermostat. It’s supposed to provide air conditioning to the building but it hasn’t even been shut off even through we’re in winter right now,” Gallaugher explained in his presentation. He says they were “lucky” to catch this one because it’s not in a closed-loop system.
Since Nelson bills for water on a per-fixture rate, a failure in a closed-loop system may not be caught for years…sometimes decades.
Gallaugher says he and Deputy CAO Colin McClure plan to address the illegal once-through cooling units some time in the spring.
Other B.C. municipalities have either phased them out or offered a rebate program to swap them out.
While the issues of water loss are always changing, Coun. Keith Page wondered aloud if the city should be doing on-the-ground monitoring at regular intervals.
The next phases of the study will tackle other areas where Nelson is losing water including irrigation overuse, failing toilets and leaking rooftop cooling units.