Protecting Belcarra’s Water Supplies
Given the many recent news stories regarding water quality and water protection issues, most people are now keenly aware of the importance of protecting community water supplies. It is therefore timely that I provide an overview of recent initiatives that Council has been pursuing here in Belcarra relative to water protection.
The Village was approached in the fall of 2000 by the Water Management Branch of the BC Ministry of Environment, Lands & Parks (MELP) with a proposal to install an observation well for the purpose of monitoring groundwater level fluctuations and water quality of the Belcarra Aquifer as part of the provincial aquifer monitoring program. By way of background, the province has classified 421 aquifers throughout BC, and the Belcarra Aquifer was one of only 17 designated with a “Category 1A” rating. This rating reflects both the high concentration of wells in the area and the vulnerability of the aquifer to potential contamination. In other words, the Belcarra Aquifer is of “high importance” given the number of residential wells and the potential for contamination due to the geology (fractured bedrock) and number of septic tank fields.
A suitable location for the Belcarra aquifer observation well has been identified adjacent to the Tatlow Fire Protection Water Tank, and MELP’s proposal is to drill a 15cm (6”) diameter well to a depth of approximately 91 meters (300 ft.). – See Drill Log – Once drilled, MELP intends to test the flow from the well for a period of about 8 hours, and obtain a water quality sample for laboratory analysis. An automatic water level recorder then will be installed on the well to record continuous water level changes. The Village will be responsible for changing the recorder charts and submitting the data to MELP over the 15-year life of the project. Council immediately supported this proposal, and MELP plans to drill the monitoring well by the end of March.
One of the first things that we did as a community after incorporation was establish protective zoning for Belcarra’s watershed areas. Now, with the increasing use of the regional park, our challenge is to continue protecting the watersheds from human activity. In recognition of the importance of protecting watersheds and aquifers, the province has recently established a grant program to assist with signage for identifying watershed areas. Council recently received funding under this new grant program to put signage at access points to Belcarra’s watershed areas in order to educate both residents and the public.
Last, but not least, Council is presently investigating options for treatment of the Village Hall water supply that comes from an on-site deep-drilled well. As a municipal facility, Simon Fraser Health routinely tests the water at the Village Hall. Last fall test samples began to show positive results for coliform bacteria that necessitated a “boil water” directive. Although the coliform levels are very low, and negative for E. coli, precautions are required nonetheless. It’s a clear signal that circumstances and environmental conditions change over time and cannot be taken for granted. Council presently has a technical specialist assessing the situation and, with the advice of the consultant, Council plans to install a suitable water treatment system in the near future.
It was the need to protect Belcarra’s watersheds that got me politically active 25 years ago when BC Hydro wanted to use 2,4-D herbicide to clear the powerline right-of-way, and the events of recent months should be a wake-up call to all Belcarra residents that we must continue to be vigilant in protecting our community water supplies!
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Village of Belcarra
4084 Bedwell Bay Road
Tel: (604) 937-4100
Fax: (604) 939-5034
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