Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I have hiked along trails worn through the bush on road allowances in Errington and Coombs for most of my life. Some of these are more established than others, and some have become part of the Regional District of Nanaimo’s trail systems. These trails provide a unique look at private properties and their approaches to water management.

A trailer park with more than 10 RVs, where people live year around, has no proper sewage treatment system. I have watched, and smelled, the raw human sewage flow on the surface of the ground onto the neighbour’s property. The RDN has been notified about this problem numerous times but refuses to do anything to correct the situation.

One trail runs along ditches that drains industrial seepage from the Errington Cedar Mill. These ditches were dug when children were still playing in the field adjacent to the old Elementary School. The well I drank water from as a student at that school became contaminated when the Mill began operations. To date, many of the local property owners still can’t drink water from wells near this ditch.

A number of industrial saw mills somehow managed to expand in my community, along with many car wreckers, trailer parks, and other industry. All this despite bylaws under the Official Community Plan (OCP) for Electoral Area ‘F’, which zone most of these properties as ‘rural-residential.’

The OCP for Area ‘F’ was adopted in 1999 after public consultation, making this area one of the very last in British Columbia to introduce bylaws that regulate land- use for private property owners. There has been strong resistance to these bylaws in this area by business owners, who have responded with none-compliance and legal battles with the RDN.

Since the early 1970’s many local residents have lobbied for bylaws that would protect landowners from industrial sprawl, development, and public health concerns such as contamination of drinking water. Area ‘F’ encompasses most of the land directly uphill from Parksville and Qualicum Beach. Water flows downhill and many contaminants flow with surface water. Much of the drinking water in these urban centers is taken from surface catchments like Englishman River and the Little Qualicum River.

Local municipal elections will be held on Saturday, November 15, 2008 along with a regional referendum regarding water. Vote for protection, help your neighbour get to the polling station, and help change the local government.

This year there are two candidates running for the position of Regional Director for Electoral Area F. The incumbent, Lou Biggemann, has shown his colors as a supporter of development, private business, and commercial industry since 2002. I have met Biggemann at several public events where he has verbally expressed displeasure with my writing and my stance on the environment while himself defending industry and development in this area.

Ceri Peacey is also running for the position of Regional Director of area F, she is a director with the Friends of French Creek Conservation Society in charge of the Hamilton Marsh Committee. I have heard her speak to the regional board in Nanaimo, with passion and articulation, calling for action to protect the watershed. She has put a great deal of time and energy into public awareness of the environment and she asks for input from others. Peacey is calling for change and understands the importance of the OCP to the residents of this community.

The RDN’s referendum will ask voters in Electoral Areas A, B, C, E, F, G and H to support ‘Action for Water.’ This bylaw focuses on improving public awareness, and promotion of existing resources. The hope is that this will eventually lead to regulations and enforcement, which can protect drinking water in this region.