May 13, 2015 - 10:32 AM
VERNON - Vernon residents have likely been noticing fewer boil water notices, but what they might not be aware of is that their water was switched to a different source many times over the last five years.
Greater Vernon Water has changed how it responds to poor water quality events, and that means customers see far fewer water quality notifications and boil water alerts. Instead, they are switched to a different water supply. Notice is provided through the media and online, but staff are saved the onerous task of notifying over 800 people on the sensitive customer list, setting out sign boards in affected areas, and responding to calls, water quality manager Renee Clark told Vernon councillors at a meeting this week.
Since 2010, the Mission Hill Water Treatment Plant has been turned off eight times and customers switched to the Duteau Creek Water Treatment Plant instead. Of those shutdowns, seven were initiated by water quality events, such as high turbidity and milfoil removal in Kal Lake this March, in which a boil water alert was averted. The other time was for scheduled maintenance. In the same timespan, the Duteau Creek plant was shut down once due to a large rain event.
Clark said the new system is much more effective than issuing boil water notices, and is safer for the public.
“Many customers have indicated… they do not listen to the radio, watch TV, have the Internet, read the paper, go outside or understand that a notice may apply to them,” Clark said in her report to council.
Where there could be a problem is if a switch is required during the summer months, when the demand for water is greatest. If all customers were drawing from the same source, water restrictions would likely be issued, Clark said.
Coun. Juliette Cunningham said the system is easier and less disruptive for people.
“I haven’t heard too many people complaining about not having boil water advisories,” she said.
The protocol ultimately equates to less information being exchanged between the water utility and its customers, Coun. Bob Spiers made it clear he thinks some information should still be available to the public, in particular, turbidity levels which used to be posted on the utility’s website.
“We’re not too sure if it’s a tool people are interested in,” Clark said. “We haven’t heard from anyone since it’s been taken off looking for it.”
Spiers pointed out Kelowna posts its daily turbidity levels, and said it’s important for customers to have access to the information.
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