Re: ‘Straight to the Source,’ The NEWS, July 10.
Mayor Chris Burger seems determined to blame Parksville’s water problems on senior-level governments.
The mayor declares he will be calling on Ottawa to deliver its share of Parksville’s $37-million water treatment project “very quickly.” To my knowledge, no federal or provincial agency has seen this $37-million plan. My office certainly hasn’t.
Crying foul over not receiving any money is pointless when no application has been submitted.
The directive for improved water quality standards and supply came from Vancouver Island Health Authority (now Island Health) in 2008. Municipalities across B.C. and Canada took advantage of the clean water and wastewater infrastructure renewal while mega-funds were flowing out of Ottawa.
Nanaimo received $18 million in senior government funding for its new water treatment facility set to open in 2015, and a further $7.7 million in gas tax funding for its $11.2-million energy recovery facility and reservoir; Qualicum Beach received $1.1 million for renewed Berwick water storage facilities; the RDN received $6.8 million in 2007 which included upgrades to the French Creek treatment facility; and Port Alberni received $11.2 million in 2012.
While communities up and down the Island were investing in proven water treatment and storage, Parksville invested time and money in a novel but uncertain technology. In December 2011 the federal government provided $1.3 million for the Aquifer Storage and Recharge (ASR) pilot project. It is not clear to me that pumping treated surface water back into the ground for storage will meet Island Health requirements that all groundwater must be treated.
Parksville received a further $452,000 in federal funding for two new deep wells on Despard Avenue.
Budget 2014 introduced the federal New Building Canada Plan. A 10-year commitment, it is the longest and largest infrastructure program in Canadian history. The new agreement was signed May 22, 2014 with the province and Union of British Columbia Municipalities. This agreement delivers the majority of the Gas Tax Fund directly to municipalities, including Parksville, but the water proposal, because of its size, would require an application through the Provincial-Territorial Infrastructure Component which includes the Small Communities Fund. Contrary to some reporting, there is no further agreement waiting to be signed for this fund. The federal government has provided the province with everything it needs to allow for project intakes. Water projects are subject to provincial regulation. Parksville’s ASR component will have to meet Island Health’s requirements, and the province will vet and refer the application to the federal government for approval.
Amateur theatrics, cursing the prime minister in the council chamber, letters directed to the wrong federal minister, and demands for senior governments to deliver funds from a lapsed program will not accelerate outcomes for Parksville residents concerned about future water security.
All levels of government have an interest in seeing the water needs of Parksville citizens addressed. Your federal and provincial elected representatives will do whatever we can to facilitate this process.
James Lunney, MP, Nanaimo-Alberni