Potable water solutions for the Tatla Lake area will be the focus of an upcoming feasibility study by the Cariboo Regional District (CRD).
In 2017, Tatla Lake residents who use the West Chilcotin Trading water system were informed by Interior Health Authority (IH) about problems with the drinking water.
“The most alarming being the high arsenic levels – high enough to warrant an official ‘Do Not Consume’ notice,” noted a letter to the CRD from the Tatla Lake Community Association, dated Nov. 23, 2021. “To ensure our community has clean, potable water we are asking the CRD not only for financial assistance, but also for guidance in doing the feasibility study that must be our first step in this crucial endeavour.”
When contacted by the Tribune, the owner of West Chilcotin Trading Co. declined comment.
During its regular meeting Friday, Dec. 10, the board unanimously approved using $23,000 of rural feasibility reserve funding to cover a preliminary analysis.
According to IH, arsenic can enter into water systems from the earth and rocks or from runoff from agriculture, mining and industrial processes and in B.C., naturally occurring arsenic is the most common source of arsenic in drinking water.
Area D director Steve Forseth asked if the feasibility study will stipulate potential financial resources around user fees, taxation and staff resources required.
Responding chief administrative officer John MacLean said the feasibility will assess the technical ability to put a system in and what the staffing requirements would be to properly service it.
“That is why this report is a little bit larger,” MacLean added, noting the team doing the study will determine how the CRD would go about administering a CRD-established service.
Forseth said while he did not object to have the analysis done he was ‘a little bit nervous,’ about the CRD taking on another system when it the infrastructure deficit for the CRD’s existing utilities are at this stage.
“I cringe at admitting this, I have two of the oldest utilities in sewer right now and we don’t even know what the total bill is to replace those,” Forseth said there is a UBCM resolution on the table from another regional district struggling with properly servicing utilities with small population basis. “Tatla’s population according to the rural co-ordination centre is 123 people.”
Area B Director Barb Bachmeier said people cannot be drinking arsenic.
“They need water,” Bachmeier said. “I am in favour of doing the study and finding out what the cost estimates are and then hopefully we can establish a route forward for getting water and sewer for our residents.”
While the cost of a new system is unknown at the time, LeBourdais said “we are also seeing the price of neglected infrastructure and it was best to move forward and get the information in order to have a deeper discussion.
Area G Director Al Richmond reminded directors that regional districts were formed to provide water and sewer services to unincorporated communities.
“That’s our job, we should never forget that or lose sight that small communities need help. I’m adamant about that,” Richmond said.
It will take until probably next fall for the study to be completed, MacLean confirmed.
West Chilcotin Area J director Gerald Kirby removed himself from the discussion and the vote, citing a possible conflict of interest because he is a resident and business owner who could benefit from a new potable water system.