On Feb 15 2016, the White Rock City Council meeting featured reports and comments from several city staffers and a presentation by a local citizen.
The presentation asked if the city was planning for arsenic to be reduced to “negligible risk” levels (.003 micrograms or lower per litre), or only reduced to “levels lower than today’s sky high levels”, i.e. that the city identify a specific arsenic level target and of course all the options for getting there. Some would argue that full reduction is the only way to go as drinking water guidelines could easily be made even more stringent in the future.
Despite the mayor’s assurance that all the presenter’s questions would be answered by engineer Greg St Louis’ excellent presentation, some were not.
The questions Mayor and Council put to Greg about his presentation did little to shed light upon the nature of the due diligence process the City did in order to correctly assess the asset/liability profile of the utility in the first place.
Councillor Sinclair’s remark about EPCOR was a little bit pregnant: EPCOR always made clear they had long-term plans to address arsenic and manganese but yes they had successfully procrastinated until the point at which ownership transfer talks had commenced.
Answering the question as to whether chloramine could ever re-appear at the table, Mr. Botrill lobbed it right back to Council, saying no matter what, Council makes final decisions. Thus the question of whether staff would again be recommending it was simply sidestepped.
The judicial context engendered after the Feds prosecuted Surrey for their chloramine mishap in the nineties resulted in the GVRD Committee of Engineers (REAC) recommending against chloramine for the GVRD (now Metro Vancouver). The judgement made clear an Environmental Assessment would be necessary before making the decision and that’s exactly what GVRD did. If we had studied our history carefully, chloramine should never have been on the table. What will it take for it to be gone forever?
Some White Rock old-timers will remember the city staffer who once offered to publicly drink sewage treatment plant effluent to prove it “safe”. As sincere as the mayor’s feelings about water safety may be, others may feel differently about arsenic as they get a better picture of how much of it they have been imbibing over the years.
The engineers report was followed by a simple show and tell featuring water identified as Merklin well water.
The turbidity of some of the samples on display was ascribed to raw water containing manganese + chlorine + time standing. Mr. Botrill surmised that what would actually be seen after full chlorination was in place would vary from less turbidity to more turbidity depending on tap location in the city.
What wasn’t made clear is why residents currently downstream of the Merklin well, supposedly drinking chlorinated water, are, we are told, not currently complaining about the same effects.
Unfortunately Stantec’s Brita fan from the Jan. 11 Council meeting wasn’t in attendance to show residents what they might or might not be able to do to improve water like that on display. And it would have been so much more convincing a sales pitch than what was attempted for chloraminated water!
When matters of utility pricing and water rates were very lightly canvassed, Mr. Botrill assured those in attendance that IF the City was to receive federal infrastructure dollars, it still made more financial sense to carry on with existing system acquisition and upgrades rather than thinking further about joining the MV water system.
No discussion about making that comparison absent funding help from other governments.
Be sure to attend the Water Quality Open House, Wed. March 2 at the Community Centre in the West Bosa tower.