Parksville asked to prepare for disaster

Concerns raised about the city's water supply; high-land reservoir storage touted

Parksville’s water supply must be set up to survive a catastrophic emergency, a group of residents told city council on Monday night, extolling the virtues of high-land reservoirs.

It’s the continuation of a discussion that’s been going on for years, one that’s resurfaced reecntly as the city developed a new water treatment and storage system. One of the residents, Doug O’Brien, was asked if he believed the city has responded to years of requests for reservoirs that could supply the city with water in the event of an earthquake, major power outage or other catastrophe.

“There’s been no notification of any change in direction of the city to look at high-land storage,” said O’Brien.

The city has leaned toward below-ground, or aquifer, storage. It’s built into future phases of the plan that taxpayers approved through a referendum last year that paved the way for construction of a new $26 million treatment plant.

Ronda Murdock, Derrick Grimmer and Trevor Wicks joined O’Brien Monday night to outline the water-supply challenges the city would face in the event of a major emergency.

“In the event of a catastrophic earthquake with loss of power and risk of firestorm, Parksville will need a system capable of water delivery without electricity,” said Murdock.

Operations manager Mike Squire held a red binder up at one point, trying to assure council and the public the city has a plan for water supply in case of a huge fire, earthquake or loss of power.

“We do have full contingency back-up plans,” said Squire.

Coun. Leanne Salter did not seem impressed with Squire’s response.

“When you speak, it’s like ‘it’s all good’,” said Salter. “I don’t think we are prepared for an earthquake or anything of that magnitude.”

Coun. Sue Powell jumped to Squire’s defence.

“I don’t think anyone on our staff thinks this is a small, unimportant issue,” said Powell, adding that the city would not be left alone in the event of a major emergency, that other levels of government would be there to offer help. “You just can’t focus on the City of Parksville. To take it out of that context, I don’t think it does it justice.”

Grimmer, a PhD physicist, and Wicks explained some of the challenges the city would face under the different emergency situations.

“The upland reservoir concept is one that needs serious consideration,” said Grimmer. “We trust that Parksville and its council will strive to be progressive in this issue. One can choose whatever scenario one wants and work the numbers, since the reservoirs are modular in nature. One can start with constructing one for emergency and test purposes and expand from there.”

Council seemed interested in seeing the emergency plan in Squire’s hands before considering any moves. The operations manager was reluctant to release the plan to the public, saying it included personal information like phone numbers for various staff and others who would be involved in handling an emergency for the city.

Council passed a motion directing Squire to redact the personal information and provide council with the city’s emergency preparedness plan.

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