A view of the Snootli watershed, the source of drinking water for the Hagensborg Water District. The district has been under a boil water advisory for decades. (Michael Wigle photo)

Hagensborg Water District receives $3.8M in funding

At present there is no treatment system in place, resulting in a standing boil water advisory

The Hagensborg Water District is set to receive $3.8 million in federal and provincial funding to undertake a water treatment program. The funding breaks down as $2,060,800 in federal funding, $1,720,494 from the province, and $1,376,706 from the water district themselves.

“The trustees are very grateful to the provincial and federal governments for providing us with 100 percent of the requested funding,” said Chair Kevin O’Neill. “It will allow us to replace our rapidly deteriorating water distribution system with reliable water delivery system going forward. These significant improvements will also greatly increase our fire protection capacity, at no additional cost to ratepayers.”

It has been a bumpy road for the district, which has been required by federal and provincial law to provide “potable” water to its ratepayers. At present there is no treatment system in place, so a boil water advisory has been imposed on the district for decades. Commercial development in the district has been restricted as well.

“Treatment can be many things including UV. Health Canada and VCH have standards that must be met, and this funding program was a way to meet the requirements. The project also means building a dual barrier treatment system, as required, for surface-sourced water,” said MLA Jennifer Rice in her announcement of the funding. “The current distribution system is in poor condition and leakage is a significant issue that, in addition to water wastage, represents a cross contamination control risk which could jeopardize water quality.”

Chair O’Neill confirmed that no decision has been made on methods of treatment, and that the water users will be given the opportunity to voice their concerns.

“The district has considered the use of central UV water treatment paired with spot chlorination to keep water lines clean,” said O’Neill. “This would allow Vancouver Coastal Health to remove the longstanding boil water advisory and open the door to more economic development within the water district’s boundaries.”

More importantly, the district does need to replace its aging infrastructure, including miles of concrete asbestos pipe that was installed over 50 years ago. As a very small water system with a low tax base the funds collected by rate payers are simply inadequate to pay for such large-scale projects. It should be noted, however, that the $1.3 million coming from the district itself has been saved from the increase in rates that were agreed upon in 2009.

Accessing funding to complete the multitude of projects has been a constant nightmare for the board, as they are an Improvement District and don’t qualify for federal-provincial government infrastructure grants without the support of a local government such as municipality or a regional district.

Over time, Improvement Districts began to lose their predominant role as the vehicle for the delivery of local services in rural areas.

The role of improvement districts has receded with the creation of regional districts and their broad roles in providing general government for electoral areas, land use planning and associated regulatory services, and local services like water and fire protection.

The district was awarded this infrastructure grant as the CCRD has agreed to support the application. However, in order to receive the funds, the district must convert to the regional district, effectively dissolving itself as an Improvement District in a process known as conversion.

“The trustees will present a conversion study/review at an upcoming public information meeting, said O’Neill.

“At this time an opportunity for questions and concerns will also be given.”

For more information ratepayers are encouraged to check the water district’s website at www.hwwdistrict.ca or contact the water district trustees directly.

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