Epcor director of quality assurance Steve Craik (right) and Fraser Health's Dean Scovill (left) chat with a resident during Thursday's open house at the White Rock Community Centre.

Epcor director of quality assurance Steve Craik (right) and Fraser Health's Dean Scovill (left) chat with a resident during Thursday's open house at the White Rock Community Centre.

Deadline looming for White Rock water-project intervenors

Epcor open house draws more than 50 to White Rock Community Centre, where proposed plans for the city's water system were detailed.

Of $11-12 million in upgrades proposed for White Rock’s water system, nearly half is earmarked to pay for chlorination that was mandated by Fraser Health.

And while public input on the plans is currently being sought, officials with the city’s water supplier say chlorination is the one aspect that can’t be swayed by the comments.

Tim le Riche“The only thing that’s been decided is Fraser Health’s order that we must chlorinate by March 2016,” Epcor’s Tim le Riche told Peace Arch News during an open house on the utility’s Total Water Quality Management project Thursday at the White Rock Community Centre.

At the same time, Epcor is confident its plan as a whole is the “most prudent, beneficial project for the people of White Rock,” in terms of ensuring the city’s water supply is safe and sustainable into the future, le Riche said.

Epcor hosted the open house as part of the process it must follow in seeking approval from B.C.’s deputy comptroller of water rights for the work, which is also slated to include infrastructure upgrades, and boosts to storage and pumping capacity.

While le Riche said the system upgrades would have come forward “at some point anyway,” the chlorination demand was triggered by contamination in 2010 that resulted in a boil-water advisory.

About 55 people turned out Thursday to learn more about the plans. Le Riche said questions ranged from curiosity about the process, to “why now?”

“Of course, there was some discussion about the rates,” he added.

Epcor has proposed an annual rate increase of four per cent from 2014-2017.

Donna Hulbert – a resident of White Rock for 33 years – was among those who turned out Thursday to peruse the display boards and speak to Epcor and Fraser Health officials.

She told Peace Arch News that while she hates the thought of more chlorination, she doesn’t expect to be able to taste the difference. The rate increase appears reasonable, she said.

(For those concerned about tasting chlorine, Epcor’s director of quality assurance, Steve Craik, offered a simple tip: add a drop of lime to the glass.)

Resident Shirley Jones described the presentation as “very nice, very informative.”

Jones said she drinks bottled water but appreciates Epcor’s efforts to improve its safety.

“They’re addressing safety of water and that’s a big issue,” she said.

Rick Ketcheson, a resident for just over a year, said he hasn’t taken a position that chlorination is bad but came to the open house to ask what alternatives had been explored.

“I’d rather find an alternative, but in the end, I’m not going to demonstrate in the street over it,” he said.

From an urban landscaping perspective, Ketcheson wants Epcor to consider installing fountains at each reservoir where people can get source water.

The window of opportunity to make official suggestions or voice concerns with Epcor’s application is limited, with Friday (Jan. 25) the deadline to register as an intervenor. Intervenors and other interested parties have until March 1 to make submissions.

White Rock council is expected to hear before then about what would be involved if the city wanted to link to Metro Vancouver’s water supply. A motion by Coun. Helen Fathers to investigate the possibility was supported Jan. 14, following a presentation to council by Epcor officials.