The provincial government will take a series of immediate steps toward ensuring safe drinking water for approximately 200 residents near Spallumcheen.
Residents within Steel Springs Water District have been under a water-quality advisory since 2014 because of elevated nitrate levels in their local drinking water source, Hullcar aquifer 103. The region has seen intensive agriculture activity for the past century.
A working group with representation from the ministries of Environment; Agriculture; and Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations; along with Interior Health will work with the local agrifood industry, water district and First Nations to protect drinking-water quality while supporting a sustainable agriculture sector.
Initial actions will cover five areas:
- A review of all available water-quality data as well as relevant legislation is already underway.
- The cross-ministry working group will work with the agriculture industry and local producers to promote best farming practices including best practices for nutrient management.
- An enhanced monitoring program will be implemented, along with continued compliance and enforcement actions.
- The Province will work with local, external agencies with expertise, including UBC Okanagan and the Okanagan Basin Water Board, toward long-term water-quality solutions.
- Community information meetings will be scheduled within the coming weeks. All information concerning sampling and testing, permitting, compliance and enforcement that can be legally shared will be available and regularly updated on the Ministry of Environment website: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/regions/okanagan/envman/hullcar-aquifer.html
Previous analysis suggests a combination of factors is likely affecting the Hullcar aquifer and it will take multiple actions by provincial and local government, agriculture industry and the community to improve water quality. The aquifer from which Steele Springs Water District draws its drinking water is unconfined and it is difficult to ascertain if nitrates are coming from any one source.
Mary Polak, Minister of Environment ─
“The interaction between activities on the landbase and groundwater are naturally occurring, and have proven challenging for this particular aquifer. Working with the local community, we will take all necessary actions to make sure the residents of Spallumcheen have safe drinking water, while preserving the region’s agriculture economy”.
Dr. Trevor Corneil, vice-president of population health and chief medical health officer, Interior Health ─
“Interior Health is responsible for ensuring that residents are aware of any health risks associated with drinking water sources, and advising them of interim measures to mitigate this risk. The working group will provide an opportunity for Interior Health to join together with other agencies and local stakeholders in order to find a long-term solution that will see nitrate levels brought down to acceptable levels as defined by our provincial drinking water standards.”
Greg Kyllo, MLA for Shuswap ─
“I am encouraged by the recent collaborative efforts of the Ministries of Environment; Agriculture; Health; and Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to address this issue. This has been a challenging local issue, requiring collaboration from various groups and local residents and I encourage everyone to take part in the community information meetings coming up in the near future.”