Krestova appears to be on the hook for expensive upgrades to its water system. File photo

Krestova appears to be on the hook for expensive upgrades to its water system. File photo

Krestova water users face big bill for system upgrades

Nearly $4 million is needed for the work

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

Water users in the Krestova Improvement District may have to spend nearly $4 million to upgrade their aging and inadequate water system.

“I know there’s a lot of people who are going to take a step back at the cost,” says KID board chair Joe Shaw. “But the thing they need to know is if we don’t do it our way, someone is going to come in and do it their way and it’s going to be twice as much as our proposal.”

A consultant recommended massive upgrades to the water system in a 2020 report looking into what can be done to get the Crescent Valley community’s system up to modern health standards.

“The KID water system is old and is in need of significant improvements to meet growing demand and drinking water quality guidelines,” says a report by WSA Engineering in Castlegar for the Improvement District.

“The challenges faced by the KID are many and varied.”

Outdated system

Those problems are indeed numerous. Users have been on an Interior Health-mandated Boil Water Notice for about a decade, and as long as there is no treatment or disinfection of the surface water sources the KID draws from, it’s going to remain in effect.

Water quality isn’t the only issue. The community is growing and the system struggles to meet current demand, the report also says. The creeks run dry in the summer and the system’s small reservoirs stagnate and grow algae.

“There is no spare capacity for more service connections. Pressures vary across the gravity-charged distribution network and the system does not have sufficient storage or sufficiently sized water mains to provide fire protection,” the report adds.

The system also trespasses on private property in some areas.

If all that wasn’t enough, the reservoirs up the mountain use earthen berms to increase the system’s capacity. But now the berms “present flood hazards to the community and require monitoring and maintenance to preserve their integrity,” the report states.

“The Deputy Inspector of Dikes with the B.C. Ministry of the Environment has identified these berms as presenting a flood hazard to the community and has encouraged the KID to develop a plan to decommission them,” the consultant notes.

The solution is a new underground water source, better water treatment, and improved distribution system, at a rough estimated cost of more than $3.7 million. But that’s a hefty ticket price for just 74 water users on the system – nearly $50,000 each.

But the chair of the Krestova Improvement District says they really have no choice. If the problems aren’t addressed, Shaw says the local health authority may just impose the work on them.

“It’s a very expensive price tag,” he says. “But at the end of the day, we are pressured so badly by Interior Health that you have to have potable water, water ready to drink out of the tap, or Interior Health will not leave you alone.”

“If you don’t comply with what they want to see, then they could potentially take over and if you’re not doing anything towards getting it done yourself, they could hire someone to do the work at twice that amount. They’ll just impose a tax to pay for it.”

Phased approach

So the consultant suggests taking the project in phases. The first phase is to drill a test well to see if the underground aquifer has the capacity and quality to use as a source for the system. That will cost about $112,000.

A site has been chosen for the test well, which will be drilled sometime this summer. The system is also going to continue to meter water use to get a better handle on demand.

Phase two, at $3.2 million, has the big ticket items. The test well would be converted into the main operational well, and a second well drilled as a back-up. There would be a well pump-house, above-ground storage reservoir, an access road, and replacement and/or extension of water mains to increase service capability. Fire hydrants would be installed along new distribution mains, and the earthen berms would be decommissioned. Trespassing infrastructure would either be abandoned or easements established to allow for KID access and maintenance.

Phase three would see the completion of phase two upgrades mainly for fire service protection.

The KID has published a notification that it intends to drill the test well this summer. If that’s successful, they’ll start planning the next phase of the project. They’ll look for grants to support the project, and will likely hold community consultations to keep water users up to date with what’s happening with their system.

“I just hope people realize we have everyone’s best interest at heart,” says Shaw. “A lot of community members are going to be put off by the price tag. But it’s this or double, when it’s forced on you.”