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Questions arise over Duteau facility

Some Greater Vernon residents are boiling their water although the new $29 million Duteau Creek treatment plant came on line last fall.

A water quality advisory was issued two weeks ago because of maintenance and it’s now been extended indefinitely because seasonal water sources are being used to meet irrigation and domestic needs.

“We spent $29 million and we’re still getting crappy water,” said Gyula Kiss, a director with the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee.

“It won’t kill you but people paid to get better water and they’re not getting it.”

Under a water quality advisory, young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are urged to boil their water for one minute for drinking, washing produce, making beverages or ice and brushing teeth.

Kiss insists there’s not enough treated water for both residential and agricultural uses, and a separate system of untreated water for farmers is required.

“It was ill-conceived,” said Kiss of the plan to treat all Duteau Creek water no matter the use.

“Right from the beginning the major focus should have been separation.”

Regional District of North Okanagan staff insist the plant is functioning properly and operational adjustments were expected after it opened last September.

“It’s a trying time for the plant when the flows are high,” said Al Cotsworth, utilities manager.

“The amount of time the water spends in the plant is stretching the chemistry of it.”

Seasonal water sources are only chlorinated before entering the distribution system, leading to turbidity, or cloudiness, that exceeds requirements.

All bacterial tests have been clear but the water quality remains at fair.

“Caution with health issues is always the first word so we decided to leave the advisory on,” said Cotsworth.

Cotsworth says staff is becoming more familiar with how the plant functions.

“Operators are making adjustments to meet the demands on Duteau Creek and it is meeting demands,” he said.

“But we’re just not totally confident, knowing we may have to bring King Edward and Deer lakes in to meet peak demand.”

Cotsworth doesn’t believe a quality advisory would be avoided if agricultural separation was in place because there would be a smaller plant.

“Even if we had separation, we could have this situation because domestic demands for water are high,” he said.

 

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