The District of Sicamous is forging ahead with plans for a new water treatment plant.
Last week, council made yet another step towards the water treatment plant by choosing a filtration membrane provider for the plant. The units will cost approximately $1.5 million dollars.
The project began shortly after the district was left without clean drinking water following a flash flood in the summer of 2012. The flood significantly increased the turbidity, or cloudiness, in the water, making it unsafe to drink. Residents have been on boil and general water quality advisories notice since the flood, and will remain so until the plant is operational.
The total cost of the plant is estimated at $7.9 million, with $3 million being funded by the federal and provincial governments. Sicamous is responsible for the remainder, to be funded through local taxation and existing reserves.
As per the suggestions of concerned residents at a prior public meeting, the district has looked at alternative routes, such as using groundwater rather than water from Mara Lake. But it was explained by council that if the district were to switch gears on the project now, all higher-level government funding would be lost.
Mayor Darrell Trouton said switching to groundwater could cost more money, as things such as drilling, infrastructure costs and assessments would have to be done. The district is also under a strict timeline to complete the project.
“I don’t think the community would be very happy if we lost funding and slowed down,” said Trouton. “I don’t think it’s fair to the taxpayer when we have reports that Mara Lake is good water.”
The plant will be built on the district’s Dabell Street property where water-treatment infrastructure already exists. The proposed facility, which will incorporate that infrastructure, is expected to meet Sicamous’ water requirements for the next 30 years.
The membrane choice passed with a three-to-two vote. Couns. Terry Rysz and Fred Busch were opposed.
“Somehow I just feel uncomfortable with proceeding with this,” said Busch. “I know we need the plant, but I can’t support the motion at this time.”
Rysz and Busch aren’t the only ones who are uncomfortable with the way the plant is progressing.
Sicamous resident Jeff Mallmes, who leans towards the groundwater option, said he feels council hasn’t been very forthcoming with information about the plant. He argues the proposed facility seems to have a lot of unnecessary bells and whistles.
“There’s probably a lot of ways to cut costs,” said Mallmes. “We went with the Caddillac of facilities.”
Carmen Gisi, who has been involved in the design, construction and installation of water plants for a majority of his career, says that the costs of the plant are skewed.
“It’s being way overbuilt,” said Gisi, noting the plant shouldn’t cost more than $3 million. Gisi compared the Sicamous project to a water facility that was recently installed in Harrison Hot Springs, a community he described as being almost identical to Sicamous.
Gisi said Harrison Hot Springs was able to complete their plant for $1.3 million.
District chief administrative officer Heidi Frank, however, said the Harrison Hot Springs plant is much smaller than the one proposed for Sicamous.