The City of White Rock has received a historic first— nearly $12 million in grant funding from the Government of Canada and Government of British Columbia to go towards the City’s $14.2 million arsenic and manganese treatment processes to address the City’s water quality and ensure a healthier community.
Water services in White Rock had been owned and operated by private owners for more than 100 years.
The City acquired the White Rock water utility from a private utility company in October 2015 by making an advance payment of $14 million, and continues to work with the previous owners on a final purchase price.
One of the reasons the City acquired the water utility was to have local community control over its water quality and to take advantage of senior government infrastructure grant funding that is not available to private water utility owners.
In 2010, under the private ownership, E.coli was discovered in the City’s water. The Fraser Health Authority (FHA) advised the private company that in order for it to operate, it must implement secondary disinfection by June 30, 2016 and that should arsenic and manganese levels move above Health Canada’s Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality (GCDWQ), or should the GCDWQ deem manganese a health criteria, a treatment system must be operational or before December 31, 2018.
In 2015, shortly after taking over the water utility, the City confirmed that levels of arsenic, in two out of seven wells, is occasionally higher than Health Canada’s maximum allowable level.
The City also discovered that the manganese levels sometimes exceed 0.15 mg/L, which can stain plumbing fixtures, laundry, and may cause an undesirable aesthetics and taste in beverages. Now that the City has implemented secondary disinfection throughout the distribution system, some White Rock residents have experienced discolouration due to the reaction between manganese and chlorine.
Although the City’s water meets Health Canada’s GCDWQ, the City is committed to providing the best quality water. For decades the removal of naturally occurring arsenic and manganese had not been addressed.
Upon taking ownership of the water utility, roughly 17 months ago, the City took immediate steps to communicate water quality issues and plan for arsenic and manganese treatment.
The City has publically made available an unprecedented amount of information about the City’s water quality that was not made available to the public before under private ownership. For example, monthly water quality test results from when the City took over, can be found on the City’s website here.
The City submitted grant applications towards arsenic and manganese treatment processes, under Canada’s and the Province’s Clean Water Wastewater Fund (CWWF).
The City also began studies, spearheaded by international water quality expert, Dr. Saad Jasim who is overseeing the City’s water utility operations, to identify the best technologies that will provide a significant reduction of arsenic and manganese, and provide quality water. The City also partnered with water quality researchers from RES’EAU-WaterNet, based out of the University of British Columbia, to collaborate and to investigate the efficacy of different technologies to provide a successful and sustainable solution to address water quality concerns. The analysis for the joint research initiative is expected to be completed shortly with the construction of the treatment process to commence once the bidding process has been completed and contracts for the work have been approved and awarded.
At 11:00AM on March 17, 2017, Mayor Wayne Baldwin joined the Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, and the Honourable Peter Fassbender, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, Member of Parliament for Burnaby North – Seymour Terry Beech, MLA Richard Lee, Councillors Colleen Jordan and Sav Dhaliwal at Burnaby City Hall for the joint federal and provincial Clean Water and Wastewater Fund announcement, prior to the City’s own news conference.
At the City’s press conference, which was held at 1:30pm at the Merklin Reservoir, speakers included Wayne Baldwin, Mayor of White Rock, Member of Parliament for Fleetwood—Port Kells, Ken Hardie who was speaking on behalf of Government of Canada and the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, and MLA Gordon Hogg on behalf of the Province. Also present were Member of Parliament for South Surrey--White Rock, Diane Watts, White Rock City Councillors Lynne Sinclair, Megan Knight and Bill Lawrence.
For more information about today’s CWWF announcement please visit: http://news.gov.bc.ca/stories/canada-and-british-columbia-invest-in-144-new-water-and-wastewater-infrastructure-projectsQuick Facts:
The Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, P.C., M.P. Minister of Infrastructure and Communities – “Infrastructure is the foundation of the Canada we all want to build for tomorrow. Both large and small communities can find it challenging to fund much-needed water and wastewater infrastructure, which is why the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund is so important. This latest round of approved projects will protect the environment, keep communities in British Columbia healthy, and will create well-paying jobs for the middle class.”
The Honourable Peter Fassbender, M.L.A. Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development –“Safe and reliable drinking water and wastewater systems are essential infrastructure for all communities in our province. The Clean Water and Wastewater Fund enables local governments to make the critical investments in essential services their citizens rely upon. This program is another successful example of our government working together with our federal and municipal partners to best serve British Columbians.”
The Honourable Gordie Hogg, M.L.A. for Surrey - White Rock-“Funding for White Rock’s drinking water infrastructure is an investment in our community’s health. The joint $11.7 million dollar contribution will ensure that the people of White Rock have access to better-quality drinking water for years to come.”
Wayne Baldwin, Mayor of White Rock - “I am so proud of our Council who took the bold step to move forward and acquire our water utility. Without taking such a bold step we would not be in a position to initiate the process to improve our water quality by removing arsenic and manganese from our water supply. Thank you to our Federal and Provincial partners who have made this a reality for our City. This is a historic moment for the City of White Rock.”