Water could become very expensive for some residents on the west side of Okanagan Lake

Water could become very expensive for some residents on the west side of Okanagan Lake is the lead on the InfoNews.ca website. The Post was shared to the People of the North Westside Facebook Page and took off from there. The fact that the information in the original story was far from accurate did not help. So, let me address some of the comments made.

Regarding the question of cost to meet Interior Health’s requirement for filtration on water systems whose source is surface water (Killiney Beach & Westshore Estates). There are two IHA approved filtration models that I have been able to find. Centralized Filtration is the predominant method used and approved for community “drinking” water systems and this is the RDCO’s preferred choice and Point of Entry being the other method that I believe is the one for us.

Centralized filtration is very expensive to build, operate and staff and is one of the larger “capital assets” that a community will own and operate. My argument for four years now is that to own and run one of these is a burden to populations of 5000 or more. How can populations in  the hundred’s hope to ever pay this cost and still maintain the other services we need and want like parks, fire department, etc.?

At the December 10, 2018 Regional Board Meeting (Board Discussion Audio) during the presentation by the Chief Financial Officer on Project Spending I requested clarification on a cost quoted for filtration at 3.5 million dollars which I recalled reading from a 2010 document. This was a document produced, vetted and approved by the Director and Board of that time. I questioned the numbers and stated that 8 years later it was unrealistic to be quoting the same numbers when in fact the cost is most likely substantially more now. There are less than 300 users on each of these two water systems, full build out in those communities is slightly more than 500 but I am being told by staff that this might be unsustainable and that total connections may need to be reduced in both subdivisions. This would negatively affect the cost of asset renewal on your bill as the number of lots paying into the fund would be reduced.

Grants are available but highly sought after at our level of government. Competition for grants is huge and includes other services and functions within our own regional district, municipalities and electoral areas as well as other local governments all applying to the same limited funding agencies of senior levels of government. For instance the recent work in both Killiney Beach and Westshore Estates saw significant grant funding. Killiney Beach received a 1.9 million dollar federal government infrastructure grant on a 3 million dollar project. This was funded in the typical way with RDCO making a grant request on behalf of the Killiney Beach Water System and that grant receiving funding approval. The Westshore Water System received a 1.3 million dollar upgrade and if it had not been for an $870,000 Community Gas Tax expenditure the entire cost of that project would have fallen to the 260 ratepayers as at that time there was only $300-400,000 in reserves.

Point of Entry (POE) is another level of filtration approved by IHA Regulations but is very seldom used or approved; the favoured method is the much more expensive centralized filtration. POE filtration is installed at each home with reverse osmosis, UV lights and filters. I had a large commercial type system installed at the fire hall ten years ago for less than $2000.00. I have been requesting the RDCO to explore the POE filtration for our smaller water systems where the centralized filtration is economically unaffordable due to the small tax base and limited users.  It has only been since the recent change in senior management at the RDCO Engineering Department that any attention has gone to this alternative and less costly method of achieving the standard that IHA believes is safe for our water. I am hoping for a Staff Report with an in-depth look at alternatives in the near future.

Other concerns put forward in the community – Are septic systems impacting our water? Yes, I believe they are but there are over twelve million known septic systems in Canada last I checked. Leaching into fresh water lakes has been a problem in Ontario for years and BC will be no different. As with the water systems IHA are the authority in charge of sewage.

I encourage everyone to listen to the audio link I have provided from the December 10, 2018 RDCO Board Meeting. You will find audio of all RDCO Board meetings at Board Audio on waynecarson.ca.

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