The Chilliwack Progress sent out the following question to all council candidates, in the second of its election series. The answers appear in the order they were received at the Progress.
QUESTION 2: What can be done by city council to ensure that Chilliwack’s excellent drinking water quality is maintained in the years to come?
Ron Wedel: Our water does have an excellent reputation for being the best. I think if the process is maintained its better not to tamper with it. The trick is to keep doing what is right to keep our water the best. The old saying, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
Mitchell Nosco: The quality of our municipal water is the envy of the world and it is something that we take for granted. Chilliwack’s water comes from the Sardis/Vedder aquifer. It is important for city council to continue expanding on the 1997 Groundwater Protection Plan. The city currently has a monitoring and water sampling program that ensures the quality of our water supply. I think that the 1997 Groundwater Protection Plan should be expanded to include the Promontory area. Since 1997 there has been a lot of development in Promontory and surrounding hillsides and due to its location there is a potential for serious impact on the water supply due to contamination run off. Sources of contamination can also occur from agricultural runoff and illegal dumping the City needs to continue enforcing city bylaws to prevent this contamination from occurring. I feel that ensuring that Chilliwack’s water remains clean and sustainable is the responsibility of every citizen. We need to resist the temptation to dump harmful chemicals into sewers. The city can help citizens by ensuring that dropoff sites for hazardous chemicals are easy to find free to use. I also support the city’s current expansion of the municipal sewer system and encourage home owners using older septic systems that do not meet the current ministry of health standards to take advantage and connect their homes to sewers so that the contamination risks and therefore potential liability to them is reduced.
Gord Kornelsen: We are fortunate to live in an area where great water does not come from a bottle or distillery. As we enjoy some of the best natural resource in the world we need to be mindful of its vulnerability. This is twofold. As our demand on this resource grows due to population increase this naturally occurring supply may become in higher demand. Currently bottling facilities are drawing on that resource and will impact the availability long term of this resource. We need to ensure proper guidelines and regulations are in place to ensure the taps are flowing for years to come. We are unmistakably a farming community as the odours can attest to. It is the use of fertilizers, pesticides and feed additives that leech into the soil that can and will cause significant impact to the aquifer and put our water supply in trouble if not regulated strictly. The City of Chilliwack is well aware of this precious resource and is committed to maintaining its integrity.
Dick Harrington: A goal to maintain our excellent quality drinking water is an obvious goal. However, we cannot rest on our laurels and assume that this will not be an issue in the future. I am concerned that gravel and logging operations in the upper river systems may harm the quality of the water downtown stream and in our aquifer. We therefore must keep a close eye on all such operations to ensure that our water is not contaminated. Ongoing testing of the aquifer water obviously must be undertaken. However, with further development occurring across the city in the next decades, there may be pressures on both the amount and the quality of the aquifer water. We need to be vigilant and constantly ask ourselves questions such as what effect does fertilizer run-off from farms have on the water quality, and is the aquifer level being compromised by this ongoing development?”
Chuck Stam: Mayor and council can ensure the continuity of our excellent drinking water quality by careful management of the surface activities in the catchment areas of our wells. This includes educating and informing those who live and/or work in these areas and the on-going infrastructure investment to reduce/eliminate private septic fields over our water source catchment areas. Council also needs to provide direction and control over utility fees that provide adequate budgets for careful monitoring, updating and maintenance programs of all aspects of our water systems.
Garth Glassel: There is a number of ways that we can ensure the quality of our drinking water. First, we should increase the ease in which people can get rid of unwanted toxic products, paints, fertilizers, pesticides, oil, antifreeze, vehicle batteries and other harmful products. It would be great if we had a four to six times a year, a curbside pick up of the toxins, we could even provide, for a small fee, different colored bags to put the products in. By having only two places to dispose of the toxic products, it makes it inconvenient, and some people may just dispose of the products in our many ditches like the garbage you see dumped in them now. Second, council should look into giving the agriculture communities a better approach to getting rid of farm waste. Our ditches were once vibrant with fish and other life, now they are cesspools. The farmers have little choice but to fill the fields and thus our aquifer with pollution. Waste burning on the farms puts arsenic in the aquifer also. We need to look to ways to help the farmers get rid of waste, not outright bans on burning and spreading effluent. Third, we should extend the eligibility criteria for the low flow toilet rebate program to include multi family (condominiums and apartments), industrial, commercial and other non-residential properties. Why should their toilets be exempt, flushing excess water is just a waste no matter where the toilet is? If the rebate program does not have enough money, cut the rebate to $25.00 from $50.00 for everyone and get twice the amount of toilets turned in. Sounds like common sense to me? And lastly, we, as council also must expand the recycling program to include much more products that consumers need to rid themselves of. For example, yard trimmings should be included in the normal curbside container pickup, not a subscription only system. Just limit it to one bundle or bag each week and add an extra $1 per month to our curb side collection bill. Not every one has a pickup and financial means to haul the trimmings to the landfill. The yard trimmings trucks are driving by our houses every week anyway, so to expand the service will mean you will get less toxic yard and waste burning in the spring and fall which, again puts arsenic in our aquifer and smoke in our air. Council must look to “common sense” solutions within our city as well as outside, to the whole Lower Mainland.
Roger Myers: The most important part of life to any community is a safe, steady supply of drinking water. Our Sardis/Vedder aquifer is probably one of our best bragging rights in the city. However, we all must do our part to protect it. In my opinion, it is not just the city who is responsible for the continued maintenance of our water supply. We must be careful as to what we put on our lands and in our sewers. Anything that is placed on our lawns, can permeate through the ground and essentially get into our water system. We must be mindful of how we discard our waste and hazardous materials. If we all take this approach of thinking before doing, our water supply will be safe in perpetuity. Now, with that said, if there is a problem with the water, the finger pointing begins and usually they are aimed at the city. It’s time for a council to have the intestinal fortitude to point the finger back and make an example out of whoever contaminates our water. We should impose hefty fines and severe jail sentences to those who would do such a thing. Our water is a gift and a precious resource, as well as a necessity. We must treat it as such. Water testing is done on a weekly basis and should continue. Many complain when our city staff pour small amounts of chlorine into the system. This is done to ensure the quality of water and is completed in a matter of days. A small price to pay for continued fresh water. If there is a breach, the source should be found immediately and dealt with accordingly.
Phill Bruce: “We are quickly approaching the maximum volume that we can draw from our aquifer per day. By conserving water today, we reduce energy consumption and help sustainably manage this precious groundwater resource.” The Sardis aquifer does not have enough water to support agriculture and domestic water demands. We are currently looking at alternative water sources (East Chilliwack Aquifer). This will be an expensive proposition. Reducing the amount of wastage is a cheaper alternative. All Chilliwack residence should be involved in the conservation process. The people who live within the city boundaries should consider conservation efforts by following water ban guidelines, especially throughout the summer months. We have an approximately 70 per cent consumption increase during this period of time. We should take advantage of low flow toilets with rebate, waste conservation kits, as well as subsidized rain barrels that are all offered by the City of Chilliwack. Even with a conservative effort of all Chilliwack residence we still have to deal with a large portion of water loss from non revenue water (NRW) example leakage, pipe flushing, fire department use, and agricultural land, such a dairy farms, and green houses. Agriculture consumes large portions of city water, and with the guidance of the City of Chilliwack, are dairy farms, and greenhouses will work towards a water recycling program, and there conservation efforts will be greatly appreciated by the Chilliwack community as a whole. The City of Chilliwack’s job will be to educate and regulate all parties involved when it comes to conservation. I have discussed only conservation, but I’m aware of contamination of are aquifer issues being of a lesser concern at this time.
Jason Lum: We are very fortunate in Chilliwack to have convenient access to the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer, our current source of drinking water. The following are three areas that, as your city councillor, I will work to maintain sustainable access to one of Chilliwack’s greatest natural assets. Education: Expanded public education around drinking water, water protection, and conservation. Provide additional resources for the current public education program – expand to high-school, post-secondary, and businesses. Work in partnership with local stakeholders, ie: First Nations, Industry, Community and Social Services. Innovation: Explore current opportunities around resource recovery. There are many innovative technologies designed to decrease peak water usage, while increasing water recovery and re-usage. Chilliwack has an opportunity to lead by example in areas of sustainable resource management to ensure a healthy water supply for generations to come. Quality of Life: A key component of quality of life is a community’s ability to access safe, clean drinking water. In addition to prioritizing the protection of our current water source – we must ensure that long term growth planning includes access to additional water sources. Proactive infrastructure planning today will ensure residents and businesses will not have to shoulder the burden of unplanned capital infrastructure projects in the future.
Gerry Goosen: The city has groundwater protection plan in place www.chilliwack.com/groundwaterprotection and has sent out awareness brochures in the past and should do so yearly to remind the community of their responsibility to preserve this and maintain our high quality drinking water.
Stewart McLean: Our excellent drinking water is as the result of our water supply coming from an underground aquifer system. City councils past and present have been proactive in ensuring this continue long into the future for our city. As a city councillor, I have and would continue to ensure that this practice continues in the years to come by maintaining and continuing to develop what has already been put in place. The city has developed several programs designed to protect the integrity of our water supply. They include: A groundwater protection program – the aquifer has been extensively mapped and modeled so the city has a clear understanding of the ‘capture zone’ of the wells. Development is limited to low impact activities such as residential development. Developments such as gas stations are not permitted in the aquifer capture zone. The city has a network of monitoring wells that are sampled quarterly. This allows us to keep track of water quality in the aquafer and would give early warning if there was a quality problem upstream of one of the wells. As part of the overall aquafer management we have established in consultation with the Ministry of the environment a ‘safe’ aquifer yield to ensure that we have a long term supply of water. The quality of water in the system is ensured through activities such as regular sampling (weekly) throughout the system, annual flushing, reservoir cleaning and the cross connection control program. The water conservation program continues to improve water usage in the city to make certain that the water is used effectively. We have a study ongoing to investigate the next source of drinking water which will be in the East Chilliwack aquifer but this is long term, at current consumption rates the well will not be needed until 2020. A recent step taken by city council this past year was the capital project which brought about 400 homes in the Sardis area onto the city sewer system and off septic systems. Further protecting our aquafer from a possibility of septic contamination.
Ken Popove: What happens above ground can affect the quality and quantity of the water below ground. Protecting the Sardis-Vedder aquifer from significant contamination and loss of recharge is essential to protecting the existing and future water supplies. The continued education of businesses, residents, pesticide users and well and septic system users is crucial. The understanding of how underground storage tanks, hazardous materials and waste, linear sources (sewer, power, roads), defoliants, road salting, agricultural chemicals, private septic systems, and the solvents are the priority contamination threats. As a council we will need to be aware of low impact development practices in conduction with the Groundwater Protection Plan. By maintaining our monitoring standards and remaining vigilant with regards to the land use of “Capture and Recharge Zones” we can ensure the aquifer will remain intact.
Chad Eros: In a research paper by the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability and the Canadian Water Network copy rite 2007-2008 (http://research.ires.ubc.ca/projects/CWN_LFV/Watersheds/BC/CaseStudies/ANM/anm_back.htm) the main issue of concern with the quality of water was articulated as follows: Agriculture is now considered the largest contributor to non-point sources of pollution in streams and groundwater aquifers in North America. In the Lower Fraser Valley, the BC Ministry of Water, Air and Land Protection guidelines recommend no manure spreading during the winter months of November, December and January on grasslands and on bare land from mid-September to early March because:
– soils are saturated resulting in surface runoff,
– plant growth is minimal, hence nutrient uptake is small,
– soils are often frozen leading to surface runoff.
Many farmers have insufficient manure storage capacity which leads to inappropriate winter applications. These excess nutrients leach into streams and can lead to eutrophication. There is an urgent need to encourage best management practices in agriculture. As shown in the current analysis, the surplus application rates between 1991 and 2001 remain excessively high in more than half of the waste management units. The BC Agricultural Council, through the Agriculture Environment Partnership Initiative and Agriculture Environment Sustainability, are currently developing projects dealing with improving nutrient management practices. BCAC’s new Environmental Farm Planning program and incentive program for implementing BMPs are positive steps in addressing waste management and stewardship issues in BC and the Fraser Valley. In other words, there is more animal waste being produced than our ground can use so it ends up in our water. Animal waste management is the main issue in addressing protecting water quality. Other issues include ensuring mining over aquifers does not occur. However, issues like these are not main issues because these issues can be addressed quickly, projects can be stalled, halted, cancelled etc. However, animal waste management continues to become more and more of a problem as the ground continues to compile waste, year after year that it can’t use, and more and more farmers continue to shift from crop growing towards dairy farming. Farm activities are protected under the Farm Practices Protection (Right to Farm) Act, however, this is balanced by the Local Government Act, specifically 920-7 which allows for local government to institute bylaws for environmental purposes. Other governments of the world have their farmers comply with animal waste management laws. We should at least start by acknowledging the scientific research. It will only take one dead child from water pollution for a huge public outcry to occur and that is way more expensive than planning for the future. We need to research what other countries have done that are ahead of us, learn, and try to avoid a worst case scenario, which is not possibility, but a probability given the research already conducted.
Ken Huttema: In 1997 the City of Chilliwack implemented its Groundwater Protection Plan. Part of this plan includes extensive water sampling and monitoring to ensure that our drinking water remains at the highest quality we have come to enjoy and expect. The plan also limits the types of activities that can occur over the aquifer as well as educate the public to be ever vigilant as to the discarding of possible contaminants. The City must continue with this program to maintain the excellent quality of our water.
Ron Browne: City council must ensure that the protection and monitoring of our water supply by staff continues diligently. The city has a ground water protection plan. This prohibits gas stations, for example, from being built where leaks would threaten the water supply. The city also has monitoring wells that are tested regularly to be sure nothing is starting to be a problem. The water in the supply pipes is also tested regularly for purity. Good water conservation will give us many years of sufficient water and the city is planning for other water sources in the longer term.