Water district issue boils up

Nitrates has at least one Spallumcheen resident questioning the potability of water in the Steele Springs Water District

Nitrates has at least one Spallumcheen resident questioning the potability of water in the Steele Springs Water District.

In a letter to the township, Terry Paull alerted mayor and council that the 52 households served by the almost 100-year-old water district can’t drink the water.

“It is contaminated with nitrates,” wrote Paull, who said in April 2013, the level of nitrates began to increase in the Steele Springs drinking water.

In March of this year, said Paull, the nitrate reading reached 10.10 parts per million (PPM) which resulted in the ministry of health advising the water district to not drink the water. Anything over 10.10 PPM, said Paull, is, according to the ministry of health, “not fit for human consumption.”

Paull gives credit to the water district’s board of directors for “working hard to maintain the quality and improve the delivery of water to uses of Steele Springs.”

Paull believes the increase in nitrates is related to a large dairy farm and how its operation is impacting the aquifer that supplies the drinking water to Steele Springs.

Deputy corporate officer Cindy Graves told council that the farm industry review board may assign an investigator so that if any farm operators are not following proper farm regulations, they work with the farmer to figure out a way for them to follow the rules.

Coun. Todd York said council has heard this story before, and feels there’s a gap between provincial ministries of health and agriculture in dealing with matters like Steele Springs.

“I think a letter needs to be sent to the ministries questioning the apparent lack of cross-ministerial conversation and authority pertaining to the conflicting mandates of their respective departments,” said York in making a motion to write both ministries.

York said the conflict is that the ministry of health and the province upholds the provincial drinking water protection act and provincial drinking water regulation.

But when drinking water is affected by agricultural practices, particularly outside the best farm practices as dictated by the ministry of agriculture, York said there is participation by the health ministry to investigate or resolve the problem.

“That flies in the face of the province’s drinking water protection act,” said York, who drew unanimous support for his motion.

Coun. Rachael Ganson was absent from the meeting.