The Vancouver Island Health Authority has approved the regional district’s application for filtration deferral for the Comox Valley water system — which buys some time to meet VIHA’s 4321 drinking water criteria.
“I feel like we’re moving in the right direction,” senior manager of engineering services Marc Rutten said at last week’s water committee meeting.
The application was based on water-quality testing results and ongoing watershed protection planning for Comox Lake, which supplies Courtenay, Comox and local water service areas in the district.
The deferral provision in the VIHA policy enables the system to operate without a filtration plant, provided certain requirements can be met, such as source water criteria for turbidity and E. coli.
Constructing a filtration plant would cost about $32 million. A deep-water intake, along with an ultraviolet (UV) light-disinfection plant, would run about $25 million.
While filtration deferral is “good news,” Courtenay director Jon Ambler questions if the $25 million would be wasted if the district ends up going to filtration.
Along with producing top-quality water, Rutten said the intake would also mitigate risks such as fuel spills from boats.
“That infrastructure will never be wasted,” he said.
VIHA’s drinking water treatment policy is aimed at ensuring consistent minimum standards for surface water supply systems on the Island. One of the main criteria is a maximum of 1-nephalometric turbidity unit (NTU) in finished water.
Results from two years of testing indicate the CVRD has achieved less than one NTU, Rutten said.
“But that risk is always there,” he added.
The next steps are to issue a Request for Proposal to complete a feasibility/siting study for the addition of UV light disinfection and a deep-water intake, and to develop the project scope.
An additional RFP will be issued for the next phase of watershed protection planning.