South Hazelton Community Association upset with water facility

South Hazelton now has a water treatment plant capable of delivering water to a Kamloops-sized community.

The South Hazelton Community Council has been mired in a water treatment battle since its inception in 2010.

The Regional District of Kitimat Stikine decided to install a plant capable of delivering water to a Kamloops-sized community.

Julia Sundell, SHCA president, is frustrated at the lack of information forthcoming from the RDKS regarding why the treatment plant was built and why financial documents regarding the treatment plant have been withheld for years.

“We formed the community association because we’re not happy with the way this whole new water system rolled out,” Sundell said.

“I don’t think there was enough community consultation regarding what we would like and eventually have to pay for.”

There are just over 200 people living in the area designated as South Hazelton and each of them must pay over $700 per year for water services per household, which is up from just over $100 per year previously.

“I was asked by the regional district, ‘Where have you been? This has all been decided.’” Sundell said.

“Which was news to me.”

The RDKS held an open house in July 2009 which was to, “explain the project proposal, answer questions and confirm community support,” according to the RDKS website.

But the wheels were set in motion in 2001 when the RDKS was called upon by the South Hazelton Waterworks District, now dissolved and replaced by the RDKS, to take over the substantive water treatment project.

Several options were  determined too costly, such as, connecting to the existing Village of Hazelton water delivery system and the RDKS decided to keep Chicago Creek as the primary water source and the size of the facility was determined.

“The system is designed to meet South Hazelton’s current needs as well as its future needs,” Roger Tooms, RDKS manager of works and services, said.

Tooms added that population projections were completed and a water treatment facility was chosen accordingly.

Sundell and many South Hazelton community members, now faced with infrastructure and cost issues, need questions answered.

“I know they are way over budget,” Sundell said.

“The water delivery system isn’t working.”

“We’re having mainline water breaks, costing $10,000 a pop to fix and we’re stuck with this system that is vastly over-engineered.”

Tooms admits to being over budget for the project, which will cost over $3.6 million, but also notes how much the RDKS secured for the plant.

“We gathered nearly $2.5 million through various grants and funding sources.”

Part of the reason for the new plant dates back to Ontario’s Walkerton tragedy, where seven people died and close to 2,500 people fell ill due to a severely contaminated public water source in May 2000.

The government of British Columbia responded by passing the Drinking Water Protection Act to ensure, among other things, an incident like Walkerton never happens in B.C.

The DWPA requires all B.C. communities to chlorinate their drinking water.

This baffles Sundell.

“One of our association members has drank the water his whole life and never been ill from it,” she said.

A boil water advisory has been in effect in South Hazelton since 1998, which is set to be lifted soon, Tooms said.

Another benefit to the new treatment plant, which is completely operational, according to Tooms, is it provides adequate fire protection to the South Hazelton community.

Maintenance for the new facility is provided by the District of New Hazelton, which may prove to be a permanent arrangement.

The SHCA is asking all community members to attend a meeting scheduled for Feb. 20 to discuss their concerns and potential solutions.

One remedy suggested currently by the SHCA is a complete merger with the District of New Hazelton, Sundell said.

For more information on the South Hazelton water system visit http://www.rdks.bc.ca/content/south-hazelton-water-system.

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