The Regional District of Nanaimo has indicated it is working on a strategy to improve water quality in the French Creek area.
Residents in the Sandpiper community have been urging the regional district to address the issue for years.
According to the RDN, although the French Creek Water Services Area contains levels of iron and manganese that makes the water aesthetically unpleasing, it is potable. As well, the water system operates under the permit by Island Health.
Last year, the Government of Canada’s Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality proposed more stringent regulations on manganese concentration in drinking water.
As a result, the RDN Water Services 2020 Business Plan includes the objective: “Develop a strategy for the French Creek Water Service Area to be compliant with the new regulations on manganese concentration in drinking water.”
Work on this strategy, according to the RDN, has been ongoing since February of this year. The RDN will provide further updates on the strategy and its cost to Sandpiper property owners as more information becomes available.
Sandpiper residents have been frustrated with the RDN. In 2016, the French Creek Residents Association proposed the RDN purchase EPCOR Water Utility that provides water to approximately 4,000 residences in French Creek including to some portion of the Town of Qualicum Beach.
The RDN attempted to buy the water utility but abandoned the plan last year due to the prohibitive cost that would have resulted in residents facing increased water rates. The RDN, however, did not reveal how much EPCOR was asking and stated that negotiations are subject to confidentiality agreement.
Electoral Area G (French Creek, San Pareil, Little Qualicum) director Lehann Wallace is now helping Sandpiper residents with a water quality petition to the RDN. There are 248 homes that are affected by the poor water quality, that is drawn from groundwater wells.
In 2012, the RDN conducted a survey of French Creek WSA residents to gauge satisfaction with water quality and motivation to fund improvements:
• 33 per cent responded to the survey;
• 87 per cent were unsatisfied with water quality;
• 83 per cent were unwilling to spend $500 to $600 per year in additional taxes over 20 years to fund improvements which focused on a dedicated water treatment plant at that time; and
• 63 per cent were willing to spend $100 to $200 per year in additional taxes to fund improvements.
In 2016 and 2017, the RDN applied for a grant from senior government to offset the costs of a water treatment plant, but was unsuccessful on both attempts. In 2001 and 2013, the RDN attempted to purchase bulk water for Sandpiper from the Town of Qualicum Beach, but was unsuccessful on both attempts.