Ensuring Our Water Is Clean

By February 17, 2013Health News, Features

By Mike Archer. With news last week that the long-awaited upgrades to Abbotsford’s JAMES sewage treatment plant have been completed, attention has switched to the required upgrades to the City’s water treatment system.

While some politicians and residents of Chilliwack are angry that the Fraser Health Authority (FHA) would dare to tell them to add chemicals to their water supply in order protect citizens from the public health risks it foresees if the city keeps growing, the City of Abbotsford has been quietly deferring plans to upgrade the treatment of the water it provides its citizens.

In a letter to Abbotsford Council dated July 20, 2011, Fraser Health reminded the Abbotsford Mission Water and Sewer Commission (AMWSC) that ” water supplied from Cannell Lake doe4s not currently meet FHS’a drinking water treatment standards for surface water sources,” and requested a written proposal by the end of August, 2011, outlining the proposed plans to deal with the situation.

Warnings First Issued In 2005

According to City of Abbotsford documents, this letter was a follow-up to an initial warning in 2005 which identified Cannell Lake as having, ” suboptimal treatment for parasites.”

While Cannell Lake is the primary focus of the FHA’s lconcenrs as it is the primary source of water for Abbotsford and Mission, in a letter from Janiene Lutz, Environmental Health Officer at the City to Jim Gordon, General Manager, Engineering and Regional Utilities, it is also clear that, while water from Cannell Lake and Norrish Creek both meet the FHA’s standards, all other water entering the distribution must also meet the standard.

The FHA made clear in a letter to Lutz in 2011, that continued monitoring of raw and disinfected Cannell Lake water over 30 years suggests that neither Cryptosporisium and Giarda is prevalent in Cannell Lake water.

The documents reveal that the City and the AMWSC planned to make upgraded water treatment capabilities part of an option which would encompass both Cannell lake and Stave Lake which, by 2008, had become the preferred option for what proved to be an unnecessary $300 million new water supply.

When the City of Abbotsford’s plans to have an American multinational build and manage a $300 million new water supply from Stave Lake were rejected by the citizens of Abbotsford in the P3 Water Referendum [The Great Abbotsford Water Shortage/Surplus], plans for dealing with the FHA’s water treatment issue disappeared as well.

One of many water project deferrals (Click to enlarge)

One of many water project deferrals (Click to enlarge)

Water Project Deferrals

After the funding opportunities disappeared which then-Mayor George Peary, then-City Manager Frank Pizzuto and current Economic Development Manager Jay Teichroeb had hoped to access by telling residents the City was running out of water, a number of water projects have had to be deferred.

Among the projects being deferred – the $10 million devoted to Cannell Lake water treatment.

Despite the deferrals, the City maintains it is on track with plans to ensure Abbotsford’s water supply is clean.

Asked by Abbotsford Today about the issue Jim Gordon said in an email that, despite the deferrals, some of which have moved to 2018/19, the City hopes to arrive at a lower cost ultraviolet filtration plant which could be built sooner.

Engineering General Manager Jim Gordon

Engineering General Manager Jim Gordon

Said Gordon, “Report WSC 16-2012 (attached), discusses the need for a Cannell Lake water treatment study. As recommended in the report, the Abbotsford Mission Water Sewer Commission (WSC) directed that an enhanced raw water quality testing program be implemented. This program started in April 2012 and will cost approximately $10,000 of the $100,000 water treatment study budget. Once we have one years’ worth of data, the next step will be to start the treatment study using the remaining $90,000 from the budget which was carried over into 2013. This study will propose treatment options and provide very rough estimates of costs.

“The WSC will ultimately decide which options to pursue; however, these will vary depending on long term source selection. If a source is selected which includes moving Stave Lake or potentially Miracle Valley waters through Cannell Lake, this will impact the type and size of treatment plant. As part of the 2013 budget process, the $20M budget estimated for a treatment plant was moved to 2018/2019; however, it is hoped that the study and subsequent discussions with Fraser Health will lead to approval of a much lower cost ultraviolet filtration plant which can be constructed sooner.”

fraser-healthTasleem Juma of the FHA told Abbotsford Today, “The Abbotsford Mission Water and Sewer Commission began the year-long Cannell Lake Treatment Options Study in April of 2012. The study will be completed in April 2013 and the findings will be presented to Fraser Health for consideration.”

“At that time, Fraser Health will determine whether or not the water quality of Cannell Lake meets the requirements for filtration exclusion and will work with the Commission on next steps.”

To read the documents associated with this file click here

Leave a Reply