White Rock seeks grants for water treatment

City applies for provincial, federal funding to build arsenic and manganese treatment plants.

Removal of the Merklin Street water tower is now complete

Removal of the Merklin Street water tower is now complete

The City of White Rock has applied for more than $7 million worth of federal and provincial grant funding for construction of arsenic and manganese treatment plants at its Merklin and Oxford Street reservoirs.

Council approved the New Build Canada Fund grant submission at last week’s meeting, where staff told members the deadline to send in the application was the following Thursday (April 28).

The city allocated $13 million for the project in its 2016-2020 financial plan, including $1.6 million in design costs for 2016. The remaining $11.4 million in construction costs is expected to be funded two-thirds by approved grant funding, with the city’s portion funded by long-term debt, amortized over 30 years.

In March, director of engineering and municipal operations Greg St. Louis told Peace Arch News the city was aiming for an 80 per cent reduction in the arsenic levels, which have tested near Health Canada’s highest allowable concentration rates (.010mg/L) for several years.

Should the city meet those reduction targets, the overall water-supply concentration would be below Health Canada’s negligible health-risk level of .0003 mg/L.

St. Louis told council last week the exact cost of the project won’t be known until after a request for proposals has been completed and a design finalized, prompting a question from Coun. Helen Fathers about what process the city would undergo should the city’s portion of the project exceed the “assent free limit” as outlined in the municipal liabilities regulation.

According to financial director Sandra Kurylo, the limit is the maximum amount of new debt servicing costs – including annual principal and interest payments – the city can commit to without requiring public assent.

The limit amount is dependent on interest rates at the time of borrowing and the amortization term of the loan.

Kurylo said should the project cost exceed the assent-free limit, the city would undergo an engagement process with the public, seeking those opposed to come forward, rather than hold a referendum on the matter.

“We’d be looking for anyone who wouldn’t be in agreement to come forward to the city,” Kurylo said. “So instead of ‘yes’ or ‘no’, it would just be the no’s.”

According to St. Louis, the Merklin Street treatment plant is expected to be completed in 2018, with the Oxford Street plant in operation by late 2019 or early 2020.