Letter to the Editor: A potable solution

As I watch another backwash/cleaning cycle in our water filtration plant with the chocolate brown sludge exiting the system...

Dear Editor:

As I watch another backwash/cleaning cycle in our water filtration plant with the chocolate brown sludge exiting the system and bound for the sewage treatment lagoons, a few thoughts about drinking water come to mind:

· I am glad that our drinking water in the office comes from the back end of the filtration system.

· Our customers (Baltac Community, Timber Ridge Community, Lake Drive, Swansea Road, Copper Point Estates, Pedley Heights/Stoddart Estates, Copper Point Resort) are receiving water without having to think about boil water advisories or water quality notices as we roll into the summer vacation season. Our system has never been subject to any quality advisories since it started producing water in 2009.

· The NTU (turbidity) reading for water in the middle of Lake Windermere is reading just below 15.0 this morning. Drinking water exiting our filtration plant has a turbidity reading of only .07 NTU. Quality notices are required when turbidity exceeds 1 NTU. Boil water notices trigger at 5 NTU.

· Within the entire East Kootenay region, this system is one of only three that fully meets all Interior Health drinking water quality standards for surface sources of water. Radium and Rushmere are the other two.

· I am biased — but when you are able to provide a good product or service at a reasonable price, I believe some bias is justified

· The residents of Windermere have put forward a preference for a wholly publicly owned and operated drinking water system. That’s understandable, but that solution has been unachievable to date despite 35 years of focus and effort by the RDEK and its staff.

· The solution proposed to Windermere last summer left control of the water system in the hands of the RDEK, with water purchased on a bulk basis from the private treatment system.  Yes, it involved private investment to clean up the incoming water, but the RDEK still held the hammer and could have exited the bulk water supply agreement at any time.

· Between Canal Flats and Radium, thousands of households and commercial establishments are provided with drinking water by utilities that are owned and operated privately. Columbia Ridge, Spirits Reach, Timber Springs, Bella Vista, Columere Park, Dutch Creek, Fairmont Hot Springs, Crooked Tree, Akiskinook, Terra Vista, Panorama, Larch Point and Radium Resort all draw water from private systems.

· Private drinking water providers are subject to oversight and regulations that are typically more onerous and extensive than systems operated by municipalities. All water providers (private or public) are subject to the water quality standards demanded by Interior Health. A private water system is also subject to oversight of its system, technology, rate structure, reserve funding and all other aspects by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations in British Columbia. Private utility rates cannot be changed, increased or amended in any form without full involvement and feedback from the utility’s customers. All financial and operating aspects of a private utility are open to the full scrutiny of the public.

· Our utility currently has $2.4 million sitting in restricted reserves solely dedicated to ensuring a long-term, reliable, clean supply of water for our customers.

· Our utility is allowed to charge $39 per household per month for drinking water supplied on a bulk basis to communities such as Timber Ridge, which continue to be operated by the RDEK. Where we provide water to the customer’s doorstep (such as Baltac), the mandated rate is $60 per month. I don’t think that is an unreasonable amount to assure our customer’s health and to support property values in a less than ideal economic climate.

As always, our facility is wide open to questions and visits from the residents in any part of the valley. Just drop by some time and watch a cleaning cycle during the busy summer months. You might be surprised at what is really sitting in Lake Windermere!

Paul Partlo, President

Parr Utilities Ltd. , Invermere