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Antwerp was "weakness in armoury:" RDNO trial

Vernon Courthouse
May 29, 2013 - 3:13 PM

TRIAL CONTINUES IN REGIONAL DISTRICT CONTAMINATED WATER CASE

After a four month interlude, the Regional District of the North Okanagan is back in court facing multiple charges pertaining to contaminated well water that resulted in a do not drink advisory for thousands of Coldstream residents.

Last summer, the District of Coldstream and Pan-O-Ramic Farms owner Ernest Palfrey pled guilty to contamination charges after it was determined manure had seeped into the Antwerp Springs well in Lavington. The Regional District is fighting charges of operating a well in a manner to cause adverse impacts, introducing foreign matter into a well, allowing contamination of drinking water and failing to provide potable water. While the district admits contamination occurred, they insist they did their due-diligence in keeping the well as safe as possible while transitioning users to a different water source.

Crown counsel Joel Gold called the last of his 11 witnesses Wednesday morning, turning the remainder of the day over to defense lawyer Rob Bruneau, who expects to wrap up his side of the evidence by day's end. 

During a portion of the evidence given Wednesday, Crown witness Al Cotsworth, then utility manager for Greater Vernon water, said the well operators did everything they could to unravel the mystery generated by the contaminated well.

"What people found in their taps is unbelievable," Cotsworth said. "More like what's in a septic hauler."

He said that's why the operators took the investigation into what happened so seriously.

"No one could get their head around it," he said. "We were desperately digging to find the answer to this impossible question."

Under examination by Bruneau, Cotsworth said there was a small chance the contaminants could have come from Coldstream Creek, which under the weather conditions of the time would have been overflowing.

The defense suggested contaminated water could have gotten into Antwerp Springs via a pipe that ran underneath the well. Coined the 'Friday Pump' because it was discovered the Friday before the trial began, the line is said to be closer to the well than any other in the area.

At the time of the incident, the district was in the process of taking risky wells offline and switching users to two main supplies: Kalamalka Lake and the Duteau Creek watershed. They hadn't gotten as far as shutting down Antwerp yet.

Provincial court judge Mayland McKimm mused aloud to the witness that in the interim, the consequence was that certain users were put at risk. Cotsworth said the district employed its resources as best it could to protect all of them.

"In Antwerp's case, we heightened the operation (with) more tests and more site visits," Cotsworth said, admitting the site was a "weakness in (the) armoury."

Before closing his case, Gold accepted the defense's evidence that the district considered installing a backflow pump at Coldstream Creek. The pump proved too costly to purchase, but Gold maintained even if it had been installed, it wouldn't have made any difference regarding the Antwerp contamination.

If the defense completes its case by the end of the day, final arguments will be given July 2.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca or call (250)309-5230.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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