The Town of Lake Cowichan is under its second boil water advisory of 2016. At a recent public works and environmental services committee meeting

Council looking to grants to take care of boil water woes

The Town of Lake Cowichan’s application for funding to upgrade its waste water treatment plant has been rejected

The Town of Lake Cowichan’s application for funding to upgrade its waste water treatment plant has been rejected by the Union of BC Municipalities’ strategic priorities fund under the gas tax program.

At the Feb. 2 public works and environmental services meeting, the town’s chief administrative officer, Joseph Fernandez, said the team had put “100 per cent” into the application process and was disappointed with the outcome.

The UBCM’s strategic priorities fund is open to local governments outside the Greater Vancouver Regional District and provides financial support to infrastructure and capacity-building projects. These projects are often large in scale and must relate to productivity, economic growth, a clean environment and stronger cities and communities.

Fernandez said he believes the waste water upgrades application may have been unsuccessful because the town has also applied for upgrades to is water treatment plant.

“We made that priority number one. So we’re hoping that that will have some impact on that grant application,” he said.

Mayor Ross Forrest took a moment to address the latest boil water advisory which, at press time, had been in effect since Jan. 29.

“I just wanted to say publicly here for our public to understand that we’re frustrated by the boil water advisories as well. We get a lot of heat because of them but I also think the public has to realize that this is a project [that] would be roughly $6.3 million,” he said, referring to the necessary upgrades to the town’s water treatment facility.

“Without getting that grant, 1,400 tax paying residents couldn’t afford to be paying what we have to borrow to cover that cost.”

Forrest said he’s aware of the complaints about the boil water advisories and he has some of the online comments about the issue. He said many people complaining about it were also complaining loudly when the town implemented a parcel tax several years ago, which, according to Forrest, is the kind of steps the town would have to take in order to upgrade the water system without a funding grant.

“I just want to make that clear so the public understands that we’re trying to save them money. Like a lot of money,” he said. “And I know the boil water is very inconvenient but would you rather pay for a jug of water a few times right now or pay thousands of dollars extra each year to cover the costs of what needs to be done? So it does take time.”

Island Health issues boil water advisories when water’s turbidity — basically its level of cloudiness — reaches a level above 1 NTU. The particles causing turbidity can include clay, silt, organic matter and micro-organisms.

According to Island’s Health website: “High turbidity can interfere with the disinfection of drinking water and be a source of disease-causing micro-organisms.”