A request from residents of the North Shuswap’s Anglemont Estates subdivision for potable water and plenty of it will not come cheap.
The aging Anglemont Water System has long been riddled with problems, including source, infrastructure and disinfection, and maintenance – problems the Water Management Branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources and Interior Health say must be dealt with to bring it up to current standards.
Residents have asked the Columbia Shuswap Regional District to look at taking over operation of the subdivision’s ailing water system.
CSRD provided options at a Jan. 31 meeting at the North Shuswap Community Hall attended by about 200 residents, who will be given the opportunity to support or reject them in a referendum, likely to be held sometime in May.
“The bottom line is the creek does not supply enough water for the existing 420 property owners, let alone the almost 900 lots that have not yet been connected to the system,” says CSRD Water Services Co-ordinator Terry Langlois. “There’s lots of issues with it, but that’s the main one, and to deal with that the operators are shutting off portions of that subdivision weekly and daily, depending on water flow.”
Failure to get a $5.2 million grant from the province in late 2011 means owners of the subdivision’s 1,303 lots will have to bear a much higher financial burden in order to get clean, potable water.
If a majority of the property owners in Anglemont Estates accept CSRD’s offer, each one will pay a $650 per year parcel tax, $532 of which will go to debt repayment over a 25-year term.
As well, the 420 current owners, and anyone else who connects to the new water system, will pay an additional $700 yearly to cover the expenses of maintaining the system and putting part of it in reserves.
“We don’t impose our will, we’ve been asked to get involved,” Langlois says. “This is what we can offer them and they will have the ultimate decision.”
One resident who spoke up at the recent meeting has his own, less expensive, ideas about getting water to his home.
“Let’s stop here for a minute, the system is about 40 years old and that is part of why it needs fixing, there are 1,303 lots and after 40 years only 408 have any type of development on them,” writes Sandor Ludwig in an email to the newspaper, pointing out individual residents can go to the hardware store and buy their own filters and disinfection units for a lot less.
“The only way open to us who live here is to convince the people in fairy land to explore other possibilities, or find somebody to do it, or do it ourselves.”
Meanwhile, the company who has been operating the system will withdraw their services as of Feb. 15 and, with nobody else in sight, the problem water utility will be turned over again to owner Terry Speed. The responsibility for the Anglemont Estates water system was removed from Speed on Oct. 12, 2010.
Rick Carew, secretary to the comptroller of the Water Management Branch, says the province took over operation of the system based on five deficiencies:
• No financial statements for 2008-09
• No proposal to rectify the shortfall in the “replacement/reserve trust fund”
• No plan to clear up a shortfall in the replacement/reserve fund for the Acacia Water System (also owned by Speed)
• Lack of an acceptable rate increase application
• Lack of a financial plan that demonstrates how the utility will provide potable water after meeting criteria on bacterial allowance, as well as to provide sufficient quantity to meet current and future demands.
“Those are the five things that he was asked to do,” said Carew, who noted that having taken over management of the utility, the Water Management Branch was obligated to address those issues.
But while those issues have been addressed, low creek flow, higher than allowed bacterial rates and leaky infrastructure remain.
And the contractor hired by the province to carry out day-to-day operation of the water system did so on the basis it would be taken over by the regional district within 15 months.
Now that the process has been delayed by the lack of provincial funding, he asked the Water Management Branch to find someone else to take over.
“He owns other water systems and was spending too much time on this one,” Carew says. “The only one we could find who knows the system is Mr. Speed.”
Owner/operator of the system since he took over from the developer in 1993 until the Water Quality Branch took over, Speed says he has been advised by Interior Health to get his “chicks in a row” prior to the referendum.
This entails coming up with an alternate plan to the regional district’s in case residents turn down the regional district’s proposal.
Speed is planning to hire a consultant to go over the CSRD study to see what needs to be done, and can be done, in three-year increments.
“Once we establish the cost of upgrading, then we can put in a new rate tariff,” he says, pointing out tariffs are set for three years. “The only thing we can do is look at it differently, is there any different order we can do things in?”
For example, he notes, perhaps system upgrades could be initiated for current customers only, with infrastructure designed to be easily expanded as the subdivision fills up.
Speed notes that whatever the goals and plans are, they also have to be acceptable to Interior Health.
Comfortable with taking over the utility he knows so well, Speed says a lack of funding to properly operate the system was the cause of most of the failings. “I know the system well, I know the positives and the negatives. This gives me a second chance to get my credibility back.”
Unsure about whether he qualifies for grants, Speed says, regardless of whether residents choose him rather than CSRD, his system will also draw water from the lake, with the creek used strictly as emergency backup.