Water woes on UBCM plan

Janice Brown, mayor of Spallumcheen, will head to Victoria Monday for the annual Union of BC Municipalities convention with the Hullcar aquifer on her mind.

The drinking water from the Hullcar aquifer has had elevated level of nitrates in it for years, prompting a drinking water advisory from Interior Health in March 2014.

Residents in the area blame a dairy farm, HS Janson and Sons, that has sprayed liquid manure on its fields in the past.

The residents have set up a advocacy group, Save the Hullcar Aquifer Team, or SHAT, to raise awareness about their situation and pressure the government to take action.

The province has tested the area, looking for definitive proof of the cause of contamination, but the Ministry of Environment is conducting additional deeper tests this fall to determine where the contamination is coming from. The final results aren't expected until the end of the year.

“They've spent two and half or three years trying to prove that it could be everybody up there, and not the farm, and at what point are they going to turn around and say, 'OK now we need to test the farm and see if it's really the farm,'” said Brown. “They didn't want to single anybody out up until now.”

Brown says she will be meeting with the ministers of Environment and Agriculture as well as Interior Health at the UBCM convention to discuss solutions.

“When we first went down we met with each one separately, and Environment would say, we'll talk to Ag (Ministry of Agriculture), and Ag would say well it's actually up to Interior Health, and we just sort of did the three circle,” Brown said. “When you have all three of them in a room together, hopefully they'll all be able to put their heads together and figure out a solution.”

Brown says she doesn't expect action from the government until the results from the final tests are in, tests that can't be conducted until the crops come off the fields in the fall.

Despite this, she hopes to be able to come away from the UBCM convention with an idea of what the government is planning to do when the results do come in.

“Is the solution to put in a water system in Spallumcheen? Is the solution to dig a deep well and get these people off the shallow aquifer? Is the solution to have no flush in farm manure, no flushing just Bobcat and raking and stirring it in the ground?” Brown said. “At any point somebody is going to have to spend some money.

“We keep saying (to the province), 'What are you people going to do,' because as government we can't afford to put out a bunch of money and the residents themselves, there's so few of them, they couldn't possibly put in a water system themselves.”

The long process has been challenging for the local government and residents, but Brown hopes a solution is on the horizon.

“We're frustrated because we think we know the problem and we didn't think that we needed to do all this extra work, but they (the Province) feel like they can't single anybody out and they have to look at all the causes and all the options, because they would liable too if they acted on the one farm and then found out it wasn't that farm,” Brown said. “We go down there (to the UBCM convention) and say, 'Here we are again, please get going.'”

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