Friday, October 28, 2005

WATER FILTRATION NEEDED - Private Company Ownes Public H20

Once upon a time only mariners knew the words ‘Water water everywhere but not a drop to drink.’ Today we must all heed this very real statement. When e-coli in the drinking water supply for Walkerton, Ontario, killed seven people and made thousands sick, Canadians began to realize just how much we all depend upon clean water. Legal proceedings made it clear to municipalities across Canada that they will be held accountable for any bacteria, virus, or toxins found in the drinking water they supplied to ordinary citizens.

Locally the drinking water supplied to homes is chlorinated but none of the water is filtered in any way. Chlorine kills some bacteria but not e-coli and several other bacteria that may develop when human and animal waste enters the water system. Today the City of Parksville provides water to residents by drawing from wells in the water table, primarily below the industrial zone of Highway 4 and Church Road. Drinking water is also drawn from Englishman River below the orange bridge. The Town of Qualicum Beach relies on wells at several locations including the wetland floodplain along the Little Qualicum River where the new ring road is being completed.

I have hiked most of the rivers and creeks in this area from their sources on Robotham Ridge, Mt. Arrowsmith and Mt. Moriarty downstream to their estuaries. I would encourage you to do the same. All of these waterways thread through different landscapes but have one thing in common; human intervention. Logging companies Brascan and TimberWest provide clearcuts, industrial roads, chemical fertilizer, and some herbicides which run off into the water systems. BC Hydro sprays herbicides along the powerlines which cross all of the watersystems in this area.

Downstream, an increasing number of residential septic fields seep into the water table. Agricultural farms raise livestock and spread manure onto the fields followed by chemical herbicides and pesticides. Surface water from paved roads, ditches, sidewalks, scrap yards, car dealerships, garages, and parking lots is flushed into the creeks and rivers as they flow through the more densely populated areas of towns and cities. Finally, just before the water flows into the Strait of Georgia, the water is pumped into the taps of thousands of residents.

French Creek is unique in this area since their drinking water is not managed by either a municipality or the Regional District of Nanaimo; instead their water is supplied by a private company. Breakwater Enterprises Ltd., a rural water utility located in the French Creek area, provides 1,500 single family homes with drinking water and has being servicing the area for more than forty years. The Edmonton based corporation of EPCOR has applied to the Comptroller of Water Rights to purchase Breakwater and all of its assets.

Lately local residents of French Creek have not been satisfied by the quality of their water, sighting dilapidated storage containers and other faults within the system. EPCOR spokesman David Rector said; “We will implement several capital improvements in the French Creek water system with the priority being a water treatment plant that provides filtration and UV disinfection.” He went on to say that EPCOR plans to stop the use of water from French Creek, reducing demand on the natural resource by some 33 million gallons annually. He is confident that future demands will be met in co-operation with the RDN water supply should the need arise.

EPCOR is holding a public meeting to inform the general public about the possible future of drinking water supplies in the French Creek area. 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM Wednesday November 2 at Oceanside Middle School 980 Wright Road Parksville.

Update February 10, 2006 The Comptroller of Water Rights approved the deal and EPCOR took over the entire French Creek water system. Private ownership of water has been raising public concerns.

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