Officials are defending a multi-million-dollar upgrade to Greater Vernon water.
The Regional District of North Okanagan held a public meeting at the Coldstream Women’s Institute Hall Monday on the master water plan and the $70 million borrowing referendum Nov. 15.
“We as taxpayers are being screwed,” said one resident, who questioned the cost and why Duteau Creek and Kalamalka Lake are the primary water sources instead of Okanagan Lake.
However, RDNO staff insisted that switching infrastructure to Okanagan Lake would be costly and the water plan has been analyzed closely.
“Every single number was considered,” said Zee Marcolin, Greater Vernon Water manager.
If the referendum is successful, upgrades will include filtration at the Duteau Creek treatment plant, an oversized irrigation main line, separation of Coldstream agricultural water, improved domestic distribution, a pump station for agricultural supply and raising the Aberdeen Lake dam.
Marcolin says the goal of the master water plan is to provide clean, safe water and to comply with provincial legislation.
“The higher risk is Duteau and with Kal Lake, there is less of a pathogen load and turbidity is good,” she said of the need for filtration on Duteau Creek.
However, Coldstream Coun. Gyula Kiss suggests other concepts were abandoned because RDNO must justify the construction of the Duteau Creek treatment plant a few years ago.
“There was a bias on the part of consultants and staff already. That’s why I wanted an independent review,” he said.
In response, Marcolin said, “We looked at all of the options — there were none of them.”
RDNO says a successful referendum will see the average water bill climb by about $36 a year or an extra $180 by 2019.
If borrowing is defeated by voters, the water utility would not be compliant with provincial legislation.
“We will then have to sit down with elected officials and Interior Health and start all over again and the health risks will still be there,” said Marcolin, adding that IHA could order the utility to proceed with some or all of the projects despite a failed referendum.
Information sessions will be held Tuesday, Oct. 7 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Vernon Recreation Complex and Oct. 28 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the RDNO office.