EDITORIAL: Divining our intentions

When it comes to White Rock's water issue, the city did right by its residents in heeding their chloramination concerns.

White Rock council’s unanimous decision Monday night to stick to chlorination as the only form of disinfectant for the city’s water makes sense on a number of levels.

Residents, politicians and vested interests will likely debate the rationale – and esthetics – of cleared hillsides and highrise development ad infinitum.

But when it came to adding chloramine – chlorine and ammonia – as a secondary disinfectant, council members didn’t need a divining rod to sense what was bubbling just under the surface.

Water quality, it’s evident, is so sensitive a matter to White Rock residents that it indicates a dividing line that cannot be easily – or wisely – crossed by politicians or bureaucrats.

On this topic, at least, White Rock’s citizens are likely to push back against an arbitrary-seeming decision. For them, clearly, maintaining the pristine condition of plumbing fixtures comes in a distant second to ensuring public safety.

They won’t be content with negligible consultation, either, or swayed by the ‘no proven harm’ arguments of Fraser Health and Health Canada. The usually notoriously short memory of the electorate doesn’t apply – far too many remember what happened when water mains broke near Fergus Creek while chloramine was being tested in South Surrey a few years ago – and nobody believes that the deaths of young salmon at that time was a coincidence.

Surely no coincidence, either, is the fact the vote against chloramine followed so closely on the heels of strong demonstration by opponents of the scheme outside city hall Monday afternoon. Only those lacking any degree of political astuteness would fail to recognize what this indicated about the general mood of the populace – and there were those on council who had already voiced serious reservations about chloramine.

In participating in the unanimous vote against chloramination, Mayor Wayne Baldwin was quick to point out that – but for White Rock’s appropriation of the utility, for a still-undisclosed sum – Epcor would have gone ahead and treated the water with it anyway.

Epcor’s stewardship of the city’s water resource has begged its own share of questions over the years.

Considering what a hot-button issue chloramine turned out to be, it’s going to be interesting to observe how the city manages its stewardship of the resource in future.