Mayor's Report - February 2012


Clarification on Water System Hook-up Requirements

Mayor Ralph Drew

At the February 27th Council meeting there was considerable discussion with the residents in attendance regarding the requirements for hook-up to the municipal water system. It was apparent from the discussion that there is both misinformation and misinterpretation regarding hook-up requirements that needs to be clarified, and the following is provided for reference by Belcarra residents:

Ground Water Protection Regulation –– The Ground Water Protection Regulation was enacted by the Province of British Columbia in 2005. Many of the issues that are being discussed are impacted by this Provincial regulation, including the requirements for the closure and decommissioning of unused wells. Ground water is a public resource, and this Provincial regulation is about protecting ground water aquifers. It is not the result of municipal bylaws or policies.

Drinking Water Protection Regulation –– The Drinking Water Protection Regulation was enacted by the Province of British Columbia in 2001. Every well owner is a water system operator, which includes wells for single family residences, and every well owner is responsible for ensuring their well water is potable by testing the water as specified in the regulation. Residents should familiarize themselves with this Provincial regulation and its requirements, as each well owner has personal liability as a water system operator. Again, these are Provincial requirements, and not the result of municipal bylaws or policies.

Bylaw to Regulate Well Closure on Properties Connected to the Water System –– This regulation is a pro forma bylaw, including the bylaw name, provided by the Province which Belcarra must adopt as a condition of the $4 million MRIF infrastructure grant. The Province also requires that this bylaw, once passed, be reviewed and approved by both the BC Ministry of Health and the BC Ministry of Environment.

Requirement to Disconnect Wells When Connecting to the Municipal Water System –– This requirement is of key importance to protecting the municipal water system from cross-connections with non-municipal water sources. When a dwelling connects to the municipal water system, then any other water source must be disconnected from the domestic plumbing, and the property owner must make a written declaration to that affect. Thus, those with private wells on their property may continue to use them in systems outside the home when municipal water is being used inside the home. With proper protection mechanisms installed, municipal water may be used for non-domestic purposes; for example, fire protection sprinkler systems, irrigation systems, swimming pools, boilers, geo-thermal units, etc.

Decommissioning of Wells No Longer Used –– A condition of the MRIF infrastructure grant, written into the terms and conditions of the MRIF agreement, was that the municipality adopt a Well Closure Bylaw. Wells no longer used, or not properly maintained, must be decommissioned in a manner specified by the Province. This requirement is over and above the Provincial requirements of the Ground Water Protection Regulation intended to protect ground water from contamination. Again, this is a Provincial requirement, and not the result of municipal bylaws or policies.

Wells and Water Sources Located on Municipal or Crown Lands –– Property owners that utilize water sources located on municipal or Crown lands will be required to connect to the municipal water system.

Deep-Drilled Wells Located on Private Property –– For households with a deep-drilled well located on their private property, it is Council policy that connection to the municipal water system will be at the discretion of the property owner. Council has NOT adopted "mandatory water testing" for households that choose not to connect to the municipal water system as it is Council's view that the Provincial Drinking Water Protection Regulation already addresses this requirement. Ensuring that a private water system continues to respect the Provincial regulations is the responsibility of the private water system owner/operator, and property owners choosing to remain on private wells are responsible for ensuring water quality.

Renovation of Existing Homes –– The municipal water system will necessitate amendments to the Building and Plumbing Code Regulation Bylaw. In those circumstances involving alteration to existing homes that require proof of water quantity and quality, either connection to the municipal water system or proof of quantity and quality as specified by the Building and Plumbing Code Regulation Bylaw will be sufficient. In other words, for those home owners who choose to remain connected to their private water system, the requirements will be the same as at present. Ensuring that a private water system continues to respect the Provincial regulations is the responsibility of the private water system owner/operator.

Shallow Wells Located on Private Property –– Protection of homes from wildfire is a Council priority, and when surrounded by forests it is a matter of public safety that the Wildfire Management Branch be able to use all of the fire-fighting tools available, including the use of fire retardants in aerial water-drops. Aircraft from the Wildfire Management Branch will not utilize fire retardants in the vicinity of shallow wells and surface water sources used as domestic water sources. Belcarra was faced with this situation a couple of years ago when Provincial firefighters would not use aerial water-drops containing fire retardants because of proximity to wells and surface water sources used for domestic purposes. Staff has requested written confirmation from the Province regarding provincial policies that impact surface water supplies, including shallow wells. Some of the requested materials have been received, but staff is still waiting for additional information. In the interim, and in the absence of written policy from the Province, Council will treat shallow wells located on private property the same as deep-drilled wells located on private property.

Decommissioning of Shallow Wells Located on Private Property –– Shallow wells located on private property must be "decommissioned" if not properly maintained; that is, if not maintained in a manner that protects the ground water resource. Shallow wells do NOT need to be "decommissioned" if used for non-domestic purposes and properly maintained. The Province is also concerned about the "on-going maintenance" of shallow wells from a public safety perspective; for example, people falling into open or unsecured shallow wells.

Water System Design –– Throughout every step of the water project Belcarra has utilized professional consulting engineers with municipal water system expertise, including: evaluation of water supply options, system predesign, cost estimates, application for MRIF funding, system design, project tendering specifications, tender evaluation, and construction oversight. Belcarra's consulting engineers have designed the system using current municipal water system standards and specifications. The water distribution mains are therefore sized to meet the municipal fire flow requirement which is significantly greater than that required to service the domestic needs of the households in the service area.

Potential Need for Re-chlorination –– There are two key variables that affect residual chlorine levels: flow rate and water quality. Belcarra's municipal water will come from one of the most modern treatment facilities in North America, and GVWD data from the first year of operation of the Seymour Filtration Plant show that the chlorine residual lifetime has substantially increased throughout the distribution system due to the significantly improved water quality. As a consequence, Belcarra's consulting engineers are very optimistic that re-chlorination at Belcarra's water distribution reservoir will not be necessary. However, it will take at least one year of operation to confirm that expectation.

RALPH DREW
MAYOR


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