Greater Vernon legally can’t avoid costly enhancements to the water treatment system.
On March 11, the Interior Health Authority ordered the North Okanagan Regional District to update the Greater Vernon master water plan and to complete a pilot study to test filtration technology for the Duteau Creek treatment plant.
“It doesn’t come as a surprise. We were warned of this,” said Arnold Badke, NORD’s engineering general manager.
In fact, NORD had already taken action before the order notice was issued.
Early budget authorization for $160,000 had been given for the pilot project and conceptual design.
IHA officials have indicated NORD is out of compliance with the Drinking Water Protection Act by not doing the work, but Badke insists the regional district has not been avoiding its responsibility and has always intended to proceed with the upgrades.
“We were short staffed last year and we didn’t get it done,” he said.
“All the order does is put timelines on it. The pilot study could be done this year and the plan update could be done in a year-a-half.”
IHA wants the pilot study and the final report detailing the pre-design and selected treatment technology, as well as the master water plan update, completed by Oct. 1, 2012.
“It is an offence under the act to fail to comply with an order issued under the act,” said Bryn Lord, drinking water officer, in the order presented to NORD.
“Penalties upon conviction for an offence may be up to $200,000 per day and up to 12 months imprisonment.”
Wayne Lippert, Greater Vernon Advisory Committee chairperson, admits IHA has the ability to issue an order but he doesn’t believe it was necessary.
“We had already committed to doing it,” he said of the pilot project and the master water plan review.
The only thing IHA has not ordered is construction of filtration at the Duteau plant, although it has been previously indicated that the work must be done by 2015.
Badke said that presently, the regional district does not have the required $20 million for filtration and a source of funding must be determined.
IHA’s order will be discussed at today’s NORD board meeting.