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Island Health requires the Town of Ladysmith to build a Water Filtration Plant to ensure that we continue to provide safe, reliable drinking water and comply with the terms of our Water Supply Operating Permit.
Benefits of the new plant include offering the best quality water possible, and ensuring that Ladysmith offers up-to-date, reliable infrastructure to serve current and future generations of residents. This in turn will lay a solid framework for managed community and economic growth in keeping with Ladysmith’s Sustainability Vision.
Construction costs are estimated to be $13.3 million. A significant $8.8 million grant from the federal and provincial governments will greatly offset the total construction cost. However, the Town needs to borrow up to $6 million for the balance. Any loan with a term over 5 years needs the approval of Ladysmith voters. This approval was received through an Alternative Approval Process that ended on April 12, 2017. Council chose AAP over a referendum because it was less costly for taxpayers.
Staff Report for December 12 Council Meeting on Borrowing for Ladysmith's New Water Filtration Plant.
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It’s important to note that our water quality has not changed, but the science that measures water quality and sets safety and quality standards has advanced considerably.
Water suppliers are responsible for delivering safe drinking water that meets the requirements of the Drinking Water Protection Act and BC Surface Water Treatment Objectives, as well as the conditions set out in their operating permits. Ladysmith draws our water supply from Holland and Stocking Lakes – this is considered a surface water supply. For surface water sources, the BC Ministry of Health has developed the “Drinking Water Treatment Objectives (microbiological) for Surface Water Supplies in British Columbia.” This is commonly referred to as a 4-3-2-1 system setting acceptable standards for certain parasites, viruses, types of treatment and turbidity in the water.
In our regular testing program, Ladysmith’s water has been found to exceed permitted turbidity levels on certain occasions. (Turbidity is the amount of organic and inorganic matter in the water, which usually gets stirred up during a heavy rain.) In 2013, Island Health (VIHA) therefore amended our “Permit to Operate a Water Supply” to require a water filtration system by January 31, 2018.
While we are fortunate that we have not had to issue boil water advisories, most important of all is to make sure that Ladysmith’s water is reliable, safe and secure at all times and that it meets the government’s quality standards. Our new filtration system will ensure that.
It will take approximately 2 years to build the new water filtration plant facility. We hope to have the new plant in operation by mid 2019.
We believe that long-term borrowing is the best option for residents. The annual cost to citizens is lower; in addition, spreading the repayment of the debt over a longer period of time better reflects the longevity of the new infrastructure and more fairly distributes the cost to all users over time.
The cost of borrowing this money will mean an increase in the annual parcel tax for residents, and was included in the adopted 2016 to 2020 Financial Plan. Borrowing over the long term (25 years) means a lower increase in annual parcel tax than borrowing over the short term (5 years). Borrowing for 25 years at an estimated interest rate of 3.58% would mean residents need to pay an additional $99 in parcel tax or a total in 2017 of $309.
Knowing that this construction was pending, Council increased the water parcel tax in 2016 to minimize the effect of the borrowing in 2017.
Alternative Approval Process is the method most commonly used by local governments in BC to seek voter approval. If we had held a referendum (which is much the same as holding an election), it would have taken longer, and cost $20,000 to $25,000. Time is of the essence in building the water filtration plant, as the Town’s Permit to Operate a Water Supply System requires us to be using water filtration by January 2018 or risk fines for not complying with the terms of our permit.
Island Health requires the Town to have water filtration. There is no choice in the matter. The Community Charter requires the Town to seek voter approval to borrow funds to meet Island Health requirements. Given this specific situation, Council determined that the AAP was the most time- and cost-effective way to get voter approval so that we can begin construction of the new plant.
Arbutus Water Treatment Plant Ph 2 Pilot-scale Treatability Study
Island Health Drinking Water Report 2014
BC Surface Water Treatment Objectives (regulation that governs Ladysmith's water supply)
Ladysmith's Water System Operating Conditions outlining the requirement to include a water filtration system in the Town's Water Supply System