If the Town of Ladysmith wants to avoid boil water orders in the future, it will have to invest in a water filtration plant at a cost of between $11 million and $14 million.
That was the news delivered by Keith Kohut of Koers and Associates Engineering, and Ladysmith’s Director of Infrastructure Services John Manson at the Monday, Feb. 15 meeting of council.
Koers and Associates conducted tests to determine drinking water quality out of Stocking Lake, the Chicken Ladder and Holland Lake, and what types of processes and facilities would be needed to ensure safe standards are met.
For Ladysmith ratepayers, their findings and recommendations are going to be tough to swallow. Council directed staff to rethink a proposed water parcel tax increase in the 2016 budget: instead of going from $160 to $200 the rate might have to climb to as much as $400 per year.
Kehot said that increase has to be weighed against the health and economic costs of not ensuring a water supply that meets provincial standards.
“What is the effect on tourism when you have signs on every drinking fountain that say ‘do not drink’,” he asked.
So far Ladysmith has avoided boil water orders that have occurred in other Island communities, but Manson said tighter surface water guidelines set by B.C.s’ Ministry of Health, and monitored by the Vancouver Island Health Authority, are forcing municipalities to filter their water.
Turbidity in water is measured in NTUs (Nephelometric Turbidity Units). A measure of 5 NTU was satisfactory in the past; now it has been ‘effectively dropped’ to 1 NTU, Manson said.
The problem with turbidity is it prevents chlorine, which is used to disinfect water, from getting at bacteria.
“The more turbidity you have, the more risk you have that bugs can hide from the chlorine,” Manson explained. So to ensure the chlorine is effective, the water has to be filtered.
That could be achieved at a cost of $11 million. But Ladysmith’s water supply has to be pre-treated before being passed through the filtration plant, otherwise the particles in it will build up quickly and force frequent changes of the filter membrane.
Another $3 million will be needed to add a ‘flocculation’ unit to the plant.