White Rock’s utility manager says measures to ensure the city’s water facilities are secure are overdue and well worth the cost.
“By the time you have an alarm, the damage is already done,” Dr. Saad Jasim told council Monday, during discussion of a $250,000 contract award recommended by staff for fencing of the Oxford Street facility.
“If somebody… was able to break into the well, not everything has alarm in it, and put something in a well – and I shouldn’t say these things – but it’s our reality.
“You need one date, something to happen. It could cost lives, and that’s why – there is no replacement to life lost and there is no cost of money to replace it.”
Jasim made the comments in response to a question from Coun. Christopher Trevelyan, who asked if the manager felt fencing at the site, which stretches from Oxford Street to Everall Street, in the 1400-block, was necessary.
Trevelyan’s question followed doubts expressed by Coun. Scott Kristjanson.
“I’ve heard from the public that these fences… they’re too big, they look like prison walls,” Kristjanson said of the proposed eight-foot, ornamental-steel fencing.
“A quarter million dollars per fence seems like an excessive amount to be spending that we could be spending on something else. Do we really need this kind of high-level, prison-like fortress around our waterworks? I personally don’t think so, but maybe I’m wrong.”
According to a corporate report, fencing at the site is part of an ongoing effort to secure the city’s “critical water facilities to harden them against potential contamination and vandalism.”
The Merklin Reservoir, Roper Reservoir and well #4 have all been fenced already. At the Oxford site, the perimeter would encompass the water treatment plant, the pump station, the Oxford reservoir and four wells, the report states.
Jasim, who headed the Walkerton Clean Water Centre in Ontario that addressed water problems in that community following the infamous E. coli outbreak in 2000, said fencing at water facilities began “since Sept. 11” – a reference to the 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. – and that he was surprised upon arriving in White Rock in 2016 that the city’s facilities weren’t secure.
“You see cities in the U.S., they have dogs and the security carry weapons,” he said.
White Rock’s chief administrative officer Dan Bottrill told council that he, too, was “a little shocked when we looked at this to determine that we didn’t have the kind of security system that we need for our water system.”
He said the fencing is “not foolproof, but it is an opportunity to ensure that we’re doing our due diligence for this community,” Bottrill said.
The comments didn’t sway Kristjanson, who noted “as with Mr. Trump’s wall, a ladder will get over a fence.”
“If a terrorist really wants to hurt our water, we are in trouble if we don’t have 24-hour monitoring.”
Council voted in favour – with Kristjanson opposed – of staff’s recommendation to award the contract to Streamline Fencing Ltd. Bottrill said more details are coming on what space left available to the public will look like. That will be shared at council’s July 22 meeting.
That aspect was a subject of concern for resident Dorothy Bower, who addressed council earlier in the evening, during question period.
Bower said the public has enjoyed access to the site “for decades,” to the point it has “actually created rights that the residents have that the staff can’t just blink away even though they don’t like them.”
The corporate report describes designs that incorporate a “mini park” at the northeast of the property.
Bower asked council to figure out a way to balance the “legitimate” concern for security with the public-access aspect.