Improving the water quality currently being supplied by the Regional District of Nanaimo to residents in the Sandpiper community of French Creek is now a priority.
That was the decision reached by the RDN board at a meeting on June 23.
Electoral Area G (French Creek, San Pareil, Little Qualicum, Englishman River) director Lehann Wallace said that the poor water quality in the Sandpiper area is “unacceptable.”
“The the quality of the water that this people have to deal with is unbearable,” said Wallace. “It has to be fixed.”
The Sandpiper community water dilemma has been going on for close to 20 years.
The RDN French Creek Water Service Area supplies water to close to 250 homes in the Sandpiper area from groundwater wells located nearby. Although the water is deemed potable by Island Health, it is high in manganese and iron and Wallace said that puts the health of residents at risk.
The RDN board heard from virtual delegations, as Sandpiper residents provided videos and photos of the brown murky water they’ve been getting and the impact it has had on the quality of their lives. They say the water causes damage to their appliances, stains laundry, bathtubs, sinks and toilets.
“Those videos are disturbing that there’s water in the regional district that is of this poor quality,” Wallace said.
A petition signed by signed by 206 Sandpiper residents was also received by the RDN board.
“It has gone on for so long and unless it’s prioritized at the board level this will continue,” said Wallace, who went on to ask staff on any assurances they can give residents that something is going to be done about it this year.
The RDN’s chief administrator officer, Phyllis Carlyle, indicated staff is currently working on a strategy to address the problem.
Last year, Health Canada and the B.C. government issued new regulations for the maximum allowable concentration of manganese in drinking water.
Wallace feels that the quality of water currently being supplied to Sandpiper is not compliant under the Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines.
Wallace also asked whether the RDN would put out notices and warnings about the levels of manganese in the drinking water.
The RDN’s regional and community utilities general manager, Randy Alexander, said that fell under the jurisdiction of Island Health.
Electoral Area F (Coombs, Hilliers, Errington, Whiskey Creek, Meadowood) director Leanne Salter asked if the RDN could possibly face a lawsuit.
“I realized there’s a bit of … I know it’s not our problem, it’s Island Health’s but we are involved,” said Salter.
Carlyle indicated Island Health’s medical officer in the past had ordered the RDN to take the necessary steps to clean up a water system.
“We are not currently under an order,” Carlyle explained. “As Mr. Alexander indicated there’s certainly research that’s being done in the province but there is no order right now. Is there a potential for a lawsuit? Anyone can sue anyone over anything at anytime. The question is if there are merits to any litigation that may be advanced.”
Parksville director Adam Fras said he can’t imagine anyone being comfortable drinking the water.
“We’re the ones in the position of responsibility to address this and I think we should be addressing it.”
Parksville Mayor Ed Mayne agreed.
“We need to make a move now,” said Mayne, who went on to make a motion that the RDN move within the next 30 days to fix the problem.
The board eventually voted in favour of Mayne’s motion that staff be directed to come up with options or solutions to improve the water quality at Sandpiper community within 30 days, or as soon as possible.