Town of Lake Cowichan CAO Joe Fernandez says the new water treatment system is up and running. (Gazette file)

Town of Lake Cowichan CAO Joe Fernandez says the new water treatment system is up and running. (Gazette file)

New water treatment system for Lake Cowichan comes online, ends boil advisories

“We’re switched over but we still have a couple of stages to go.”

After years of waiting, and of on-again, off-again boil water advisories, residents of the Town of Lake Cowichan are now being served by a new water treatment system.

“It’s running interim,” said Town CAO Joe Fernandez. “We’re switched over but we still have a couple of stages to go.”

Nobody has to boil water because it’s been UV-treated and “the reading’s pretty low right now. It’s below one,” he said. “It’s looking very good. Until it’s fully switched over, there’s always the possibility it might spike up but chances are slim.”

It’s been a long trail for both town officials and residents and when the Town announced, on Jan. 17 on its Facebook page, “the new water treatment plant is anticipated to be commissioned later this month. Until this date, the boil water advisory will remain in effect. We are sorry for any inconvenience this has caused,” the reaction was swift.

Some folks were thrilled.

Jacob Hall said, “Glad there’s an end in sight. Getting sick of water bottles,” while Martin Miller said, “This is good news,” and Tori Flint added, “Appreciate the update. Thank you.”

But there was an equally vocal chorus from the other side.

Michelle Banfield’s post was indicative of that group, saying, “Shut the water meters off please so the town’s residents are not paying for the inconvenience of over charged billing for the town supplying not potable dirty water, plus the residents using extra hydro on their bills now for boiling this. Only fair one should help balance out the other until the issue is resolved.”

Some others, like Laurie Johnson and Roxanne Garnett sympathized with businesses who couldn’t sell mochas, lattes, or cappuchinos because they don’t sit hot enough for long enough for food-safe regulations.

Some long-time Lakers were simply surprised, like Derek Kercher, who said, “Crazy to think when I grew up at the Lake, I don’t think we ever had a boil water advisory”. But Michelle Davis Weir was more resigned, saying, “I gave up four years ago, after the third [boil advisory] and have been boiling my water ever since. We must have had 100 since then.”

Then everyone waited, and on Feb. 8, the Town again posted a notice, saying, “The tentative date for this interim operation of the new water treatment plant and the lifting of the boil water advisory has been scheduled for Feb. 11, 2019.”

Then there was another slip ‘twixt the cup and lip as the notice on Feb. 11 said, “The turbidity is a 0.7 NTU today. The Town is waiting for approval from Island Health to lift the boil water advisory”. But finally, on Feb. 12, the notice came through that Island Health had lifted the advisory.