Is treated Vernon water being released into Okanagan Lake safe?

Is the water safe?

After the City of Vernon announced on Monday that reclaimed water will be released into Okanagan Lake, there have been concerns from citizens if that water is safe.

The reclaimed water is the end product of water that has been used by the public, businesses and industries –– when you flush your toilet, shower, do laundry, etc. The city says it has been put through a rigorous purifying and cleansing process before being released from the Water Reclamation Centre.

Vernon, however, is a unique case when it comes to utilizing reclaimed water, with its long-standing spray irrigation program.

For decades, reclaimed water has been pumped to the MacKay Reservoir about 10 kilometres away on the Vernon Commonage lands, where is then distributed to local parks, golf courses and farms in the area.

"We are very proud of the system we have here," says Serge Kozin, manager of the Vernon Water Reclamation Centre.

"We are the only community in the Okanagan that uses reclaimed water for irrigation to this extent."

Due to recent weather conditions, the MacKay Reservoir is nearing capacity, which is forcing the centre to release the reclaimed water into Okanagan Lake. This has sparked concern among residents about whether the water being released is safe for both the public and the environment.

"We're not trying to make excuses, but every other community releases reclaimed water into lakes every single day," says Kozin. "What we will be releasing into the lake is highly treated water, and it meets the standards set by the Ministry of Health."

Kozin also stated that the water being released will not lead to an algae bloom, which can be detrimental to aquatic life.

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