Town settles on solution to ongoing water problem

The town will be pursuing a grant which will cover the costs of installing the more expensive sand-filtraiton system.

After putting up with several weeks of boil water advisories this past winter, residents of Lake Cowichan may be pleased to hear that the town has committed to a solution.

The town had formerly looked at an ultraviolet (UV) treatment system as the solution to Island Health’s new requirement for a secondary system, though Nagi Rizk, superintendent of the town’s Public Works department, recently confirmed that they are now pursuing a sand-filtration system.

The sand-filtration system is more effective in eliminating turbidity, which has been cited as the cause of the two recent boil water advisories. While the quality of Lake Cowichan’s water has presumably remained the same, the rising water quality standards of Island Health deem any drinking water over 1.0 NTU of turbidity to now be unsafe to drink before boiling. During the boil water advisory in January, the turbidity fluctuated between 1.4 and 2.3 NTU. The town’s CAO, Joseph Fernandez, said that a boil water advisory had not been recorded in Lake Cowichan in the last 40 years.

While the sand-filtration is likely to end the string of boil water advisories, it also carries a heftier price tag, which is estimated to total $7 million. The UV system was expected to cost the town only $1.2 million.

The final cost of the project, as well as future maintenance costs, is still undetermined, as only preliminary designs have been completed. The town is hoping to offset costs through a grant, which Dr. Paul Hasselback, medical health officer for Island Health, has written a letter of recommendation on behalf of Lake Cowichan for.

The town also received another extension to their deadline for installation, which moves the due date to an undisclosed date in 2017, presumably Dec. 31, which will give them an additional two years to have the secondary water treatment system implemented.