Plan B for Parksville’s water treatment plant now up to $28 million

City council will have a chance to approve the new plan in meetings this month

The elimination of a controversial aquifer storage and recovery system is one change residents learned about last week when the Englishman River Water Service board passed motions forwarding a new water treatment facility plan to Parksville city council.

The project, if approved by council and the regional district, calls for the $28.3 million facility to be completed by June of 2018. City of Parksville taxpayers are on the hook for 74 per cent of the cost. The balance is for Nanoose Bay.

This comes after the federal and provincial governments each kicked in $3 million in taxpayer funds for the project last month.

Parksville will use its portion of that grant money, along with reserve funds, an increase in water rates and borrowing of $5.6 million to fund its portion of the project. That borrowing must be OK’d by the electorate through a referendum, currently scheduled for Nov. 21.

The water-rate increase for the average Parksville home is estimated to be $10/year.

After it was clear last year the project was not going to enjoy the traditional two-thirds funding from senior governments, it was scaled back to about $24 million (from $37 million), a Plan B that eliminated the aquifer storage and recovery system (ASR) some observers said was untested and risky. Parksville Mayor Marc Lefebvre, who previously touted the ASR system, said it “could be revisited at another time.”

Englishman River Water Service program manager Mike Squire explained to the board on Thursday that the uncertainty of climate change and the need to conform with Island Health requirements means the new plant needs more capacity.

It needs to provide a minimum of 16 million litres a day of what’s called firm membrane filtration. That’s double the eight million litres a day in the original Plan B and account for the additional $4 million, said Squire.

In his report, Squire also said he believes issues related to the intake location on the Englishman River have been settled.

“All indications right now are that we have fully met DFO requirements,” he said. “We feel we are in a very good position to submit a full application (for the intake to the DFO).”

Squire also said the intake has been designed to take into account drought conditions like the region is experiencing this year.

“This is an exceptional year, a one in 100,” he said. “But some might say this is the new norm.”

In three meetings this month, city council is expected to vote on accepting the new plan, giving it final approval and settling on the wording for the referendum.

Lefebvre said it’s possible more senior-government funding could be available and he said he would be meeting with Vancouver Island North MP John Duncan about that possibility in the next two weeks.

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