Time ticking for water treatment

Time ticking for water treatment

  • Sep. 14, 2017 2:30 p.m.

Area MPs Gord Johns and Rachel Blaney have pledged to help the Comox Valley Regional District maximize grant funding opportunities for a government-mandated, multi-million dollar water treatment project that needs to be operating in a couple of years. The project will bring the local water system into compliance with provincial guidelines and provide safe, sustainable drinking water to the Valley’s 45,000 residents.

After meeting with Johns and Blaney on Monday, the CVRD water committee asked to meet with provincial ministers as soon as possible.

“One of the key things we want to let people know is this is a priority for the regional district,” committee chair Bob Wells said. “Our community is the largest community in B.C. that doesn’t have a filtration plant, and multiple barriers for drinking water.

“We’re kind of between a rock and a hard place” he added. “We have, on the one hand, a water licence (with a timeline). At the same time, we’re asked to go to the public to ask for funds for a project that we don’t really have a choice on whether or not we move forward. It’s part of our water licence.”

In recent years, the Valley has received a number of boil water notices due to increased turbidity levels in Comox Lake and the Puntledge River. High turbidity can interfere with the chlorination process used to disinfect drinking water. The notices — combined with water quality monitoring in the lake — have led Island Health to mandate filtering and disinfection for the Comox Valley water system.

The project will cost about $105 million. It includes a deep water intake in the lake, a treatment plant, a conveyance and a pipeline. So far, the district has about $4.2 million in grant funding.

“We have the potential to get almost $85 million in grant funding,” Wells said, noting delays in funding. “We’re waiting to hear from the feds to see if they’re going to change they’re grant funding in March of 2018. We’re doing everything we can to get our application in quickly, and possibly try to get a special treasury allocation, where we can get our grant funding based on urgency.”

The water treatment plant needs to be in place by the fall of 2019. Though construction has not started, Wells says a two-year timeline is realistic.

“When you’re looking at a $105 million project, you want to make sure that everything is dialled in,” he said. “A lot of research has gone into making sure we’re working on the right thing. I think we’re on a great path.”

Directors will discuss options and challenges at the Oct. 17 water committee meeting.