Authority defends stance over water

The Interior Health Authority insists it’s not the bad guy when it comes to Greater Vernon’s costly water challenges.

The Interior Health Authority insists it’s not the bad guy when it comes to Greater Vernon’s costly water challenges.

Members of the master water plan stakeholder advisory committee were told Thursday that the Ministry of Health, not IHA, sets standards for water protection.

“We don’t make this stuff up,” said Roger Parsonage, regional director of health protection, adding that regulations are based on national and international guidelines.

“They are not new standards imposed on B.C.”

And while the timeline for infrastructure upgrades can be discussed, Parsonage says IHA doesn’t force certain upgrades.

“IH won’t tell water suppliers what technology it needs to use to meet a treatment objective.”

However, Parsonage says there are implications if water quality standards are not met as health risks can be created.

Questions arose as to why Greater Vernon must pursue filtration when Kelowna doesn’t.

Parsonage says Kelowna’s domestic utility from Okanagan Lake qualifies for filtration deferral because protection criteria is being met but that situation could change in the future.

“We are trying to balance our responsibilities to public health with our obligation to be balanced and fair to the agencies (utilities),” he said, adding that specific situations within utilities will be considered.

The goal, he added, is to work with water suppliers and a capital works will not be ordered as long as the utility is working towards a plan.

Most system upgrades are costly, but Parsonage says utilities must plan for improvements irrespective of possibly receiving government grants.

“We regularly talk to the Ministry of Community Development about the need for grant funding for water and we regularly write letters of support for grant funding.”