There are ongoing concerns about nitrate levels with the Huller aquifer.

There are ongoing concerns about nitrate levels with the Huller aquifer.

Ministry actions endorsed in Spallumcheen

Spallumcheen council is convinced the Ministry of Environment is doing what it can with Hullcar

Spallumcheen council is convinced the Ministry of Environment is doing what it can to find a solution to improving water quality in a township aquifer.

Four councillors and Mayor Janice Brown met with environment staff at the recent Union of B.C. Muncipalities convention in Victoria, including face-to-face with Christa Zacharias Homer and Mark Zacharias, lead representatives into the Hullcar aquifer situation.

“I thought the meeting was really good,” said Coun. Christine Fraser. “It does seem like they are going to try and get to the bottom of it.”

The aquifer and users of the Steele Springs Water District have been under a water quality advisory since March 2014 due to high levels of nitrate found in the water.

A large dairy operation above the aquifer has been pointed at by residents as being responsible for the high nitrate levels, though provincial government officials have not declared any one farm or operation responsible.

A public meeting between environment, health and agriculture staff and Spallumcheen residents was held earlier this year. Environment officials have hinted at another public get-together in November (time, date and place to be announced) to provide an update on the situation.

Spall representatives were told by the environment staffers that Minister Mary Polack will wait until all studies are completed before starting an area-based plan for the aquifer. That includes five deep soil tests along with drilling five groundwater monitoring wells.

The five deep soil tests are expected to be done this month with results available by the end of November, and that final results from all studies would be available by mid-March 2017.

“This is the first time in meeting with them and hearing from them that I have confidence that they now seem to be getting serious about finding a resolution to this,” said Coun. Joe Van Tienhoven.

In the gallery at Spallumcheen council’s meeting Monday was Al Price, spokesperson for the Save Hullcar Aquifer Team (SHAT), which has been pressing governments for a resolution to the water quality advisory.

Price thought it great that council was afforded an opportunity for an in-person meeting with ministry staff.

“It is far more revealing to be able to talk to government officials face to face, and be able to read their expressions and body language as well as hear what they have to say,” said Price, though he also said he himself has had no replies from Mark Zacharias, the assistant deputy minister, to correspondence since an in-person meeting May 13.