District of Sicamous to lobby province for funding for water treatment plant

Treatment facility expected to cost upwards of $4.5 million.

Big money is needed to relieve a big pain.

At this week’s Union of BC Municipalities convention in Victoria, Sicamous council is lobbying the provincial government to provide funding for a water treatment plant.

“We’re working hard and meeting with the ministers next week and will definitely be pushing forward with the province to help us with the plant,” said chief administrative officer Heidi Frank on Friday. “We appreciate the residents’ patience that they’ve shown during this time.”

Emphasized Mayor Darrell Trouton in a Sept. 18 news release: “This has been identified as a priority in our strategic plan, and we already have meetings confirmed with ministers next week in Victoria to discuss the situation.”

The provincial help is needed, given that the estimated cost of the plant would be $4-$4.5 million.

In the meantime, Sicamous is expected to remain on a boil water order until sometime this fall or winter, says public works foreman Marty McLean.

“Just to be cautious rather than going back and forth from a (water quality) advisory to (a) boil water (notice), we will probably just stay on a boil water.”

Prior to the June 23 flood of Sicamous Creek, water treatment consisted of adding chlorine to Mara Lake water via a pumphouse on Dabell Street with a chlorine contact tank beneath it. No filtration was required. A water quality advisory was normally only issued in the spring when freshet occurred.

However, the flooding meant that a lot of silt and debris increased the turbidity – or cloudiness – of the water. It wasn’t the high lake level that compromised its purity, McLean added.

During the week of Sept. 10, district staff raised the intake for the Mara water system to a depth of 18 metres, in hopes of lowering turbidity levels. Turbidity is measured in NTUs (Nephelometric Turbidity Unit), with less than one being good, one to five necessitating a water quality advisory and, above five, requiring a boil water notice. Early last week, turbidity levels were fluctuating between two and six NTU.

“It’s fairly decent right now, but there’s still a ‘boil water’ advisory. We’re not sure where the turbidity is going to end up over the long term,” McLean said, noting that as soon as the water cools off, staff hope to see an improvement.

He explains that now the top of the lake is warmer and the bottom cooler, but when it all becomes the same temperature, Mara Lake will flush out.

Prior to the flood, the annual average turbidity was less than one NTU.

The flood led to turbidity levels ranging from 40 to 116 NTU throughout the summer, a ‘do not use’ order for a couple of days after the flood, a ‘do not consume’ order until Aug. 1, and a ‘boil water’ notice since then.

Currently residents are getting potable water out of three tanks in the community, while some businesses have their own tank systems.

The tanks won’t be staying forever, says Frank, but the district will give a few days’ notice before removing them.

Frank confirmed they are costing the district a significant amount of money, although she wasn’t certain what the total will be.

“I anticipate it will be over $100,000.”

The news release notes that the water treatment plant the district favours is one that would use a membrane technology similar to that used by Kamloops and Revelstoke. It would be built on the Dabell Street property adjacent to the existing pump station and could be expanded to meet the projected water needs of Sicamous for more than 30 years.