Funding approved for Duteau project

The first steps towards costly enhancements to Greater Vernon’s water supply are moving ahead.

The North Okanagan Regional District board has approved $160,000 for a filtration pilot project and conceptual design on Duteau Creek.

“We have to do it,” said director Mike Macnabb of filtration, which will cost about $20 million.

“The Interior Health Authority is forcing us to do it.”

On March 11, IHA ordered NORD to update the Greater Vernon master water plan and to complete a pilot study to test filtration technology for the  Duteau Creek treatment plant by Oct. 1, 2012.

Action towards the master plan update and pilot project were underway before the IHA order was issued.

“It (order) tells us to do two items we were already planning to do,” said Arnold Badke, NORD’s engineering general manager.

IHA officials claim the regional district is out of compliance with the Drinking Water Protection Act by not doing the work.

Macnabb says the regional district has always intended to proceed with the initiatives but it has taken some time to put the process together.

He also questions the need for filtration and says some of the IHA data is from 2007 and does not reflect conditions since the Duteau treatment plant opened last year.

“There isn’t good science behind some of the direction IHA is taking,” said Macnabb.

“It becomes punitive to taxpayers. How many people have died from water?”

NORD has not determined the source of the $20 million for installing filtration, but a referendum among Greater Vernon residents is a possible option.

Regional district officials are not sure if they can meet IHA’s Oct. 1, 2012 deadline to have both the filtration pilot project and the master water plan update completed.

“Some items may take longer than that but as long we keep them (IHA) informed of the situation, we may be able to get an extension,” said Badke.

IHA wants filtration added to the treatment plant by 2015.