Window opens for water facility’s alternative approval process

Time is ticking for residents to give Nanaimo city council permission to borrow $22.5 million for a new water treatment facility.

Time is ticking for residents to give Nanaimo city council permission to borrow $22.5 million for a new water treatment facility.

An Alternative Approval Process began Thursday (July 21), which gives people opposed to borrowing the money until 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 31 to submit an elector response form.

If 10 per cent or more of Nanaimo’s 62,680 registered voters submit a form, council will be forced to seek approval to borrow through a referendum or find another way of raising the money to pay for the balance of the $65-million water treatment plant, which is required by the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

If permission is not granted to borrow the money, council will have to seek another means to generate the revenue. That would most likely come in the form of raising water rates approximately 80 per cent for the next three years, which could see homeowners across the city paying an increase of about $250 annually in water user rates, said Mayor John Ruttan.

“Council supports borrowing money to help pay for the water treatment plant because future users who will benefit from this investment will be making a financial contribution through loan payments,” said Ruttan in a press release “If borrowing is not supported the $22.5 million must be raised over the next two to three years, which puts an unfair burden on current taxpayers for the benefit and use of future generations.”

The overall cost of the water treatment plant is expected to be $65 million. Federal and provincial levels of government are contributing $17.8 million, while the Community Works Fund will contribute $10 million. Development cost charges allocated to the project total $5.9 million, while an additional $8.8 million comes from water user rate revenues, which are already scheduled to increase five per cent annually for the foreseeable future.

In 2008, secondary water treatment to address viruses, bacteria, protozoa and turbidity was ordered by VIHA in order to meet Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines.

In order to keep its permit to operate the city’s water supply, the city must comply by building the new treatment centre, which will be located off South Forks Road near Nanaimo River Road and is expected to be completed by spring 2015.

“Every municipality in British Columbia receives a Permit to Operate a Water Supply System under the Drinking Water Protection Act, which gives VIHA the authority to set standards,” said Dwayne Stroh, VIHA’s environmental health spokesman. “Nanaimo’s operating permit also lays out a timeline for completion of the plant’s major design and construction stages.”

To better educate the public, an open house is planned for Aug. 3 from 3-7 p.m. at the Bowen Activity Centre.

For more information, please go to Elector response forms can be found and submitted at legislative services at city hall.