Water forum keeps politicians on their toes

There was no shortage of politicians on hand at Oceanside water event

Trevor Wicks ... Canadians deserve policies that protect heritage

Trevor Wicks ... Canadians deserve policies that protect heritage

Water service, quality and quantity seems to be an issue that raises a lot more questions than answers in Parksville and Qualicum Beach.

Yet for some reason, some people are more likely to pile on the suppositions than to seek the answers — or even believe the answers when offered — from those people responsible for our drinking water.

Such was the case during a water presentation on Tues., Oct. 25 led by local resident Trevor Wicks.

For the past 20 years, Wicks has been one voice seeking more clarity in the mid-Island’s water supply. Educated and experienced, Wicks is known for his 3D models of how groundwater flows in the area, as well as his passion for quality water. His questions are pointed and directed squarely at city hall and the Arrowsmith Water Service (AWS) — a fact that seems to keep the city on its toes.

Acting mayor Chris Burger said, however,  that’s mostly in order to correct misleading information and provide some of the answers Wicks and others seek.

“People should be asking questions,” Burger said, noting he took Wicks’ water tours years ago, before he was acting mayor and respects what Wicks is trying to accomplish.

“He has had an impact on public policy,” Burger continued. “There are 12,000 people that depend on only a few individuals in this system. Don’t think that doesn’t weigh heavily on them.”

Wicks began his presentation on Oct. 25 by talking about the area’s sensitive water supplies — as well as offering some ways to better protect it. The best of the bunch was the idea of protecting the watershed area that supplies water to Parksville. Both he and Burger agree that would take some doing — and money the city doesn’t have —  as much of that land is privately owned.

A significant portion of his presentation to the 70 to 80 people in attendance, was to keep the AWS and the city honest — make sure they consider many options before embarking on a multi-million dollar water treatment and storage plan.

Yet even Wicks admits water is a big issue and cannot be solved easily.

“I’ve tried every other way (to have an impact),” he said of the meeting and his ongoing water lobby efforts. “Now, it’s an election issue and it’s important the candidates know more.”

Wicks said he’s been doing this for 20 years and it’s time others pick up the torch. One of his goals is to foster interest in the cause. Hopefully, he continued, other people will ask those questions and keep water supplies top of the politicians’ minds.

Indeed it was for those at the meeting. Some expressed concern over logging in watershed areas, some asked about water testing frequency and scope, and still more wondered about well intake impacts and water system costs.

No one had any answers.

The people with the answers — city engineering an water staff — were on hand at the meeting. Burger said they spent some of the meeting time answering people’s questions as best they could — including why the city is looking to spend $50-plus over 40 years on water intake and treatment.

He said the Englishman River, part of the AWS, provides the city with half of its drinking water right now.

“We’re on a critical path,” Burger said later. “We need to supply a lot of specific detail to other levels of government in order to determine what level of (water) treatment is needed.”

He said there is a deadline for the city to make that determination and submit their plans to the provincial and federal governments for grant money.

“What if people say ‘no’ …?” he pondered.

With provincial and federal water treatment laws looming over them, Burger said the city will have to do something, no matter the outcome of the current deliberations. He agrees the more ideas on the table the better, as long as they are realistic.

He agreed that the efforts of Wicks, and others like local Streamkeeper groups and conservation measures, also save water and reduce costs.


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