The City of Revelstoke is moving quickly to study the Big Eddy Waterworks, with a deadline to apply for federal and provincial funding fast approaching.
“The hiring of the consultants at this time and the speed of which we’re moving is largely dependent upon the timing window for Building Canada funding in February,” said Mayor David Raven at a special council meeting held last Tuesday, Nov. 4. “If we’re going to avail ourselves of Bilding Canada Funds for this project, we have a number of decisions to make between now and then.”
A week earlier, council hired the engineering firm MMM Group to study the waterworks at a maximum cost of $20,000.
Last Tuesday, Nov. 4, Jim Roe from MMM, and Mike Thomas, the city’s director of engineering, addressed council to update them on the situation. The Times Review was not at this council meeting, and is basing this article on a video posted online by the Revelstoke Current.
Earlier that day, Thomas and Roe toured the Big Eddy Waterworks with local stakeholders.
Roe said the system is likely from the 1950s, when quite a few water systems were installed in the B.C. Interior.
“One of the challenges with water systems of that age is the various material types of pipe that went into the ground reaching their life expectancy,” Roe told council. “Beyond that, we’ll start to develop a model to see if the pipes are big enough, the storage is enough and the well system is suitable.”
The city has a map of the Big Eddy Waterworks, though the conditions of the pipes are not known. The goal is to examine the system to see what will be needed to upgrade it to meet Interior Health standards and provide proper fire flows.
“Any infrastructure that is to be constructed under the Building Canada Fund must meet the Canadian Drinking Water guidelines,” Thomas told council.
Currently, IH has placed the Big Eddy on a boil water advisory because it has concerns about the system’s ability to maintain adequate chlorine levels to the ends of the network. As well, water flows are considered sufficient for residential areas, but don’t meet fire flow standards for industrial zones.
MMM aims to come back to council with a draft report in December, and a final report in mid-January. There is some urgency to the matter due to a Feb. 18, 2015, deadline to apply for Building Canada Funds.
If funding is approved, the city would have to take over the waterworks in order to receive the money. That would mean either a referendum, or an alternate approval process, which would allow the city to proceed unless 10 per cent of Big Eddy residents formally protest the move.
If Building Canada funding is received, the federal and provincial governments would cover one-third of the cost each, and Big Eddy water users would be responsible for the rest. The city’s new utility acquisition policy says the users that benefit from an acquisition are responsible for paying for the costs associated with the acquisition.
“Once this report is complete we’ll have enough information to go out to the public and people will have an understanding what upgrades will be required, what those costs would be and what the impact on water rates would be for the residents of the Big Eddy if they chose to vote in that way,” said Thomas.
Don Hall, the chair of the Big Eddy Waterworks, said most people he’s spoken to favour a city takeover if that’s what it takes to fix the system.
“Other than the usual few, most people are in favour of getting something done,” he told council, adding that a ratepayers meeting could be called once more informatiion is available.
The Big Eddy Waterworks has until 2018 to address concerns raised about the system by Interior Health.
Thomas said the fact Interior Health supports upgrades to the water system should help with the city’s funding application.