White Rock Water Quality Open House March 2, Public Engagement or just PR?

Mr Dan Botrill, Mr Greg St. Louis:

Dear Sirs:

We are writing you on behalf of the White Rock Safe Water Alliance (WRSWA) in connection with the City’s announcement that it will be hosting a “Water Quality Open House” on March 2, 2016 at the White Rock Community Centre from 5:30 – 7:30 P.M.  The City has advised that it will engage the Community  at this venue on considerations for the long-term treatment of arsenic and manganese that naturally occur in our water system and other water quality concerns.

First, let us say thank you for the positive steps that the City is taking to provide the Public with information respecting the water utility and White Rock water quality. We enthusiastically applaud actions such as the posting of recent water quality test results and some of EPCOR’s past Annual Water Performance Reports on the City’s “My Water” web page. And given that a lot of people pay scant attention to certain media , thank you  for sending  meeting notices with water bills.

Also, while the overlaying of the water utility infrastructure onto the White Rock On Line Mapping System (WROMS) is definitely  a worthwhile feature ,   it does not include key specific information such as the location of the wells, extent of the “blend”,  which wells usually supply which reservoirs and which pipes.  Many people are under the impression that  the water utility routinely “blends” water from wells as an operational measure to enhance water quality, but given the  swings in Arsenic and Manganese levels between individual wells, which particular well usually provides their household water-most of the time,  is an important issue that many members of the Community  want to understand  and indeed have asked us about so they can better join the conversation.

 The Public meeting scheduled for March 2nd is an important and necessary step of Community Engagement and Consultation. Can you confirm, please, that the agenda and format of the meeting will  ensure inclusion of a “Town Hall” portion in which there will be an open microphone for members of the Public to provide feedback and to ask questions in a way that all in attendance can hear both the feedback or question and the City’s response.

While there may be some value to casual, informal, “one on one” chit chats beside poster boards as usually happens at “open house” style meetings, this format tends to breed lots of misinformation and fosters future situations of claims of “she said, he said”. Water Quality is such a critical issue both now and in the future  that everybody in attendance should hear the same thing and not have to rely down the road on mere personal anecdotal memories as to what might have been said at the meeting.

 In this vein, and in the interests of openness and transparency, the WRSWA is drafting a set of questions which we will be forwarding to you before the end of next week so that they can be publicly addressed at the March 2nd meeting.

 Thank you again and we look forward to your confirmation that in addition to City presentations, the March 2nd Water Quality meeting will include a “Town Hall” format and microphone open to the Public .

 Sincerely,

 Andrew Schultz ,  David Riley , co-chairs WRSWA

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