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West Bench gets city water

West Bench residents no longer have to boil their drinking water, but that's not new for some locals. 

Due to water clarity and quality issues, the West Bench water system had been on a boil water advisory for several years.

But finally on Friday, The Interior Health Authority gave approval for the regional district to lift the boil water advisory for the West Bench water system. A decision made after the water was connected to the City of Penticton's water system.

Castanet spoke to some West Bench residents who say lifting the advisory won't change much for them. 

Debbie Allison who has lived on the West Bench since 2000 says her family has never boiled water.

"Maybe it was being kind of risky, but we've never had any issues here," she said. "If we'd gotten sick we would have looked like fools, but we never have." 

"When we had company or people coming, we had bottled water for them, just to be on the safe side."

Sarai Renwick who moved to the West Bench a couple of years ago, said most people she knows don't boil their water either. 

The $9.8-million upgrade to hookup residents to city water was approved in 2012 and even though many locals didn't boil their water, they agree that the upgrade was necessary. 

"I think in this day and age to ensure safe drinking water, it would be a lot of pressure on a small organization like the West Bench irrigation district to keep up with all the new regulations coming down," said Allison. 

Renwick said the mix of West Bench's deteriorating water system and the new water quality standards would have sent West Bench's costs skyrocketing if they hadn't joined Penticton.

Penticton city councillor Helena Konanz said that West Bench water has been an issue for years.

"I think it's wrong that the West Bench went so long without water. That was wrong and that's too bad," she said. "However, I initially voted against the proposal. I thought if they wanted to hook up to Penticton water, then perhaps it's time to just join the two communities or to amalgamate with Penticton." 

That turned out to be an unpopular idea at council, although she is hopeful the idea will be revived in future.

The Regional District of the Okanagan-Similkameen will pay 22 cents per cubic metre for water from Penticton. It is unclear exactly how much individual households will have to pay. 

"I guess we'll see when the water bills start coming in," said Allison.

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