Lake Cowichan Mayor Ross Forrest

Lake Cowichan Mayor Ross Forrest

Gas Tax provides Lake Cowichan with $5 million for water treatment plant upgrades

Boil water advisories should become yesterday’s news, thanks to a cash injection from the

Boil water advisories should become yesterday’s news, thanks to a cash injection from the federal government that will result in an upgraded water treatment plant in Lake Cowichan.

On Tuesday, at a public announcement at Ts’uubaa-asatx Square, the Town of Lake Cowichan revealed it is receiving $5 million from the Government of Canada towards the $6.3 million water treatment plant upgrades mandated for the community.

“I’m thrilled to death about it,” said Mayor Ross Forrest. “I’ve been mayor for eight years and we were mandated two years before I was mayor to have secondary water treatment [by] 2016, which we got moved to 2017. So it’s something that’s been on the plate for a long time.”

Forrest said the town knew there was “no way” its tax base could afford to pay over $6 million for the upgrades.

“This is a huge relief for me and for council,” he said.

In a press release, the Town of Lake Cowichan acknowledged the water quality issues it has struggled with over the past year, describing “episodes of deterioration in water quality” and not being able to comply with the Drinking Water Treatment Objective for Surface Water in British Columbia. The funding will allow the town to proceed with upgrades to the water treatment plant, located close to the water reservoir at Indian Road.

It currently supplies water by gravity to all water users.

The plant will include chemical pre-treatment, filtration, UV disinfection and chlorine disinfection. The press release states water users in the town can expect to have good quality drinking water and “that boil water advisories become a thing of the past.”

Forrest said while the town has some funds saved through its water parcel tax, the remaining $1.3 million will be paid by the Town of Lake Cowichan predominately through short-term borrowing. He said there would be further discussion about the $1.3 million at the town’s monthly public works committee meeting that evening.

“It’s going to mean healthier, better quality water. I truly believe our citizens deserve that and we have all along. Not that there’s been anything wrong with our water, but I think they deserve better,” he said.

“Also with the amount of growth our town’s experiencing right now, it’s good for people to come in that are confident water is important [here].”

The federal funding comes through the Gas Tax Fund. Each year, the Government of Canada provides close to $266 million in funding for local government infrastructure projects across B.C. The Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) administers the funds in partnership with the federal and provincial governments.

In a written statement, Amarjeet Sohi, minister of Infrastructure and Communities, said the Gas Tax Fund allows communities like Lake Cowichan “to prioritize their infrastructure investments and decide how best to spend federal dollars. Whether it’s about protecting local waters, modernizing community centres or just turning on the tap to drink clean fresh water.”

Peter Fassbender, minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, said the provincial government is pleased to work together with UBCM and the federal government in delivering these funds.

“This province continues to support its communities by ensuring residents have access to safe, high-quality drinking water through important infrastructure projects like upgrades to the water treatment plant in Lake Cowichan,” he said in a press release.