May 23, 2019 9:05 am

Belleville prepared to protect drinking water if Lake Ontario water levels rise

WATCH: Lake Ontario water levels could continue to rise for several more weeks.

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Belleville’s mayor Mitch Panciuk says the municipality is ready if flooding continues or worsens.

The municipality sits on the shores of the Bay of Quinte, part of Lake Ontario.

Pancuik says the municipality is constantly getting updates from Quinte Conservation and says water levels won’t recede for weeks.

“Peak levels are not anticipated until the week of May 31 to June 7, with projections citing that at least 2017 levels or slightly higher,” Pancuik said.

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In a morning press conference, the mayor went on to say water levels in the Bay of Quinte are currently 67.2 cm higher than average for this time of year.

READ MORE: City of Belleville elevating roads, closing streets to mitigate impact of potential flooding

If water levels rise another 30 cm, the city will have to take drastic measures to protect the municipality’s drinking water.

Perry DeCola, general manager for the city’s environmental services, says they would build a hydraulic cement berm in the water treatment plant.

The berm would prevent lake water from contaminating treated drinking water.

While the water treatment plant from the outside looks well above the lake water level, DeCola says inside the plant, much of the equipment is below ground — closer to the water levels.

“What’ll happen is low lying areas will fill up with water and we’ll have to evacuate that and it could cause electrical issues and safety issues, but the quality of the water that’s provided to the citizens of the city of Belleville will be pristine,” DeCola said.

DeCola said lakewater could also get into the sewer system, and when that happens, it’s difficult to get water to flow out of the system.

“We’ve sourced large-capacity pumps to move the water from the building outside.”

DeCola emphasizes that would be treated water not raw sewage being pumped back into Lake Ontario.

READ MORE: More rain brings potential for flooding in Kingston, Brockville, Belleville regions

Neighbourhoods near the lake have also been reinforced by using gravel to raise road levels, and concrete barriers have also been placed in front of homes. Sand and water bags, meanwhile, have also been added along some streets and the shoreline where they are low enough that flooding is an issue.

Deputy Fire Chief Paul Patry is now advising residents to avoid standing water.

Patry says it’s not easy to see the debris hidden in the muddy murky water and motorists shouldn’t drive through it.

“You also don’t know the impact that’s had on the infrastructure underneath the road, which could lead [to] sinkholes,” Patry said.

WATCH: (May 21) Water levels in Lake Ontario continue to rise, affecting the Kingston Yacht Club

Pancuik says the city has learned from the previous flood of 2017.

“We’re taking all the possible steps that we can to prevent damage to residents property, ensure that we have community safety and that our infrastructure is protected.”

The city has also issued a no-wake directive to boaters and has closed Victoria Harbour to everyone except local boat traffic.

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