Big changes are in the pipeline for White Rock’s water system.
The city’s water utility, EPCOR, is seeking approval from B.C.’s deputy comptroller of water rights for an estimated $11-12 million project that would increase chlorination of the city’s water, upgrade critical infrastructure and boost storage and pumping capacity.
The ‘Total Water Quality Management’ project would tack some $4 per month onto an average residential water bill during 2014-’17, as costs are “phased in to water rates.”
EPCOR mailed notices to customers last week and will host a public-information open house Jan. 17, 1:30-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at White Rock Community Centre, 15154 Russell Ave.
There will be an opportunity for interested parties to submit written statements, but they must register in writing by Jan. 25 and submissions must be filed by March 1.
Details of the application can be viewed online at www.epcor.com or at the utility’s office, 203 15261 Russell Ave.
Approval would require decisions that the project is in the public interest, and that recovery of costs through water rates is justified.
Company spokesperson Tim Le Riche said the time factor in the current application is meeting a Fraser Health Authority deadline of full chlorination of city water by March 31, 2016.
“A lot of the expansion and upgrading was in our long-term plan and would have been done anyway,” he said.
Le Riche noted the upgrades would help EPCOR achieve full system chlorination, and reliable delivery of water that meets operating permit conditions set by Fraser Health.
Le Riche said a raise in water rates would mean White Rock “falls in the middle of the pack” compared with rates in other areas.
“It amounts to $4 per month for the typical White Rock resident – I think that’s a fair price to ensure White Rock’s water supply is safe.”
White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin – who told Peace Arch News Friday he was surprised by EPCOR’s announcement – noted that EPCOR has said the increase in water rates would be temporary.
“I would think it’s not an unreasonable amount,” Baldwin said. “I know the GVRD is going to be boosting their rates because of the upgrading they’re doing.”
Le Riche said he expects some feedback to the application from opponents of chlorination. But he said that while the company has been examining alternative treatments, chlorination still seems to be the most effective means of disinfection.
He said partial chlorination of White Rock water, historically pumped from wells deep underground, has been ongoing since contamination – eventually traced to aging roof seals at EPCOR’s Merklin Reservoir – led to a boil-water advisory for the city in 2010.
Baldwin commented the increase in chlorination is “probably something that has to be done.”
“It’s hard to argue with that stuff when you’re doing it to improve public safety,” Baldwin said. “The event in 2010 highlights the problems we have in dealing with water that is not chlorinated.”
Fraser Health is calling on the utility to increase the amount of chlorination so that the residual amount, at a consumer’s tap, is 0.2 milligrams per litre, or two parts per million.
“At source the amount of chlorination may be higher,” Le Riche said, adding the amount of chlorination Fraser Health is requiring is “standard for most Canadian municipalities.”
Another key component of the project, according to the application, is upgrading to aging infrastructure “to improve system reliability and safety” – which would include replacement of the Merklin high reservoir, which doesn’t meet current seismic standards.
Increases to storage and pumping capacity will meet current “balancing, fire flow and emergency needs,” the application states, as well as providing some improvement in the company’s ability to accommodate new customers.
First phase of the project would include upgrades at EPCOR’s High Street location, and construction of a new Oxford Street reservoir and pumping station.
The second phase, which would begin in late 2014, would include demolition of the Merklin high reservoir, plus rebuilding and upgrades to other facilities at the site.