Contamination forced thousands of Coldstream residents to abandon their drinking water in 2010 and now the matter has been taken to the courts.

Contamination forced thousands of Coldstream residents to abandon their drinking water in 2010 and now the matter has been taken to the courts.

Charges laid over water contamination

Legal action taken against Coldstream, RDNO, Pan-O-Ramic Farms and owner Ernest Rodney Palfrey stemming from 2010 contamination of Antwerp Springs

An agency warns legal action over contamination of a well could place upgrades to Greater Vernon’s water utility in jeopardy.

The Regional District of North Okanagan and the District of Coldstream face four charges each in relation to a foreign substance entering the Antwerp Springs water source in January 2010.

“What public benefit is the Ministry of Environment hoping to achieve by charging us? A lot of money will be spent (on legal fees),” said Trafford Hall, RDNO administrator.

Hall says RDNO is under pressure from government to initiate costly improvements to Greater Vernon’s water system and it has limited resources.

“This (court case) will burn up a lot of money that would have been devoted to the system,” he said of separating agricultural users and filtration.

The charges facing RDNO and Coldstream include operating a well in a manner to cause adverse impact, introducing a foreign matter into a well, allowing contamination of drinking water and failure to provide potable water.

Thousands of Coldstream residents were forced to abandon their drinking source because of the contamination, which occurred after a rain storm.

“RDNO responded instantly to this crisis and all remediation was initiated,” said Hall.

“Why there are Crown charges, we’re not sure. This isn’t a case where anyone had intent to do anything.”

A similar reaction is coming from the District of Coldstream.

“Our staff has always acted with complete fidelity to the customer,” said Michael Stamhuis, chief administrative officer.

“Nothing has been covered up. We’re disappointed charges have been laid. We’re not sure one government charging another government is benefitting the public.”

Both RDNO and Coldstream are waiting to see more detailed information about the charges and how the legal process unfolds.

“It will take a lot of staff time and legal costs,” said Stamhuis.

Ministry of Environment officials state they are unable to respond because the matter is before the courts.

Three charges are also facing Pan-O-Ramic Farms and owner Ernest Rodney Palfrey. They include allowing contamination of drinking water, introducing activity-related waste into the environment and introducing waste into the environment causing pollution.

Palfrey could not be reached for comment.

RDNO, Coldstream, Palfrey and Pan-O-Ramic Farms are scheduled to reappear in court Oct. 27.