The Chairman of the North Okanagan Regional District says allegations that it didn't respond accordingly to a water contamination in Lavington three years ago are absolutely not deserved.
"We believe staff was exemplary," Patrick Nicol says of the post-contamination response. He recalls the hard work of both staff and volunteers to provide clean drinking water to affected residents. When the Antwerp Springs water system became contaminated with cow manure from a nearby field in January of 2010, 3,500 residents were cut off from their access to potable water.
"It was once in a half century weather conditions," Nicol says of the mild and rainy January. If the weather had been below freezing, the liquified manure spread out on Ernest Rod Palfrey's fields wouldn't have mixed with melted snow and rain and flowed into a drinking water system.
"It was a flash flood in January," Nicol says.
Now, RDNO is facing 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.
Nicol says RDNO did everything in its power to protect residents, and their drinking water, from contamination.
"We acted responsibly and responded in an impeccable way. We applied extreme due-dilgence to all areas," Nicol says.
While Palfrey and the District of Coldstream pleaded guilty, RDNO is defending its actions.
"We are standing up for our citizens," Nicol says. "This trial is about the truth and the evidence."
The trial is on its third day, and is anticipated to resume Jan. 28 and 29. Crown counsel Joel Gold has called a handful of his 11 witnesses to the stand, including Christine Yamada, who was the utility engineer for Interior Health at the time of the incident.
"When she took over that position in 2007, she did a site visit (to Antwerp)," Gold says. "She gave evidence there was a cross-connection between the drainage system and the supply pumps."
RDNO's defense lawyer, Rob Bruneau, said at the time of the incident, the regional district was in the process of taking risky water systems offline. The contamination at Antwerp occurred at a time when they were doing their best to manage the risks of that particular site.
Gold says there was communication about the site between Yamada and RDNO leading up to the incident, and after it.
"There's been lots of work before and after there," Gold says.
Antwerp Springs was shut down when the contamination occurred and has not been reopened. Residents have been switched to alternate water systems.
Gold has also called Dave Acton, the foreman at Antwerp Springs, and Mike Richardson, a conservation officer who attended the site.