Village of Montrose seeks to secure its water source

Montrose council wants to address the fact that the village's water source is outside village boundaries.

Potential water problems remain afloat in the Village of Montrose.

The village’s drinking water woes were resolved this year with the drilling of  new well, construction of a new pump house, and installation of a water chlorination system.

However, the Montrose aquifer and its wells are outside village limits and council wants to address this concern by insuring protection of its water source.

“The village is looking to take in our own wells which are not in village boundaries,” explained Kevin Chartres, Montrose chief administrative officer.

Located in Area A at the confluence of the Columbia River and Beaver Creek, is the village’s aquifer, an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock and unconsolidated materials (gravel, sand, and silt) from which groundwater is extracted using water wells.

With further development in that area, Montrose’s water could be jeopardized by pollutants such as construction runoff and leaking toxic materials, seeping into the water supply.

“This is something we have been addressing for a long time,” said Montrose Mayor Joe Danchuk at council last Monday.

“We don’t want any further industrial development on top of the aquifer.”

Currently, a Fortis switch station is located on the land, and the village has been in talks with the company to install a containment bed to protect the aquifer from substances such as leaking oil.

“In case of a leak, Fortis has agreed to put in a rubberized bed underneath the station,” said Danchuk.

At one time, the village explored various options to protect the water source, which included pursuing a boundary expansion.

However the option was struck down when residents living on aquifer land said, ‘no’ to a proposed expansion which would encompass their land. Other options council identified was to seek Regional District of Kootenay Boundary’s (RDKB)consent for the village to use its own planning authority and create a development permit or classify the aquifer a “unique” zone of the lands.

In March, council sent a letter to the regional district, stating that “the village has no governance options for its (aquifer) protection.”

The letter requested RDKB’s assistance to investigate policy and regulatory measures  to adequately protect the aquifer from potential and future development and activity in that area.

In April, the village received a response from Donna Dean, planner for the RDKB, which described the rural land over the Montrose aquifer as a four hectare (10 acre) parcel       size.

She recommended protection measures for the RDKB board to consider, which included a further increase of parcel sizes above the aquifer that would not allow additional parcels to be created; and to consider establishing a new development permit to the area.

Dean further advised that the RDKB planning and development department staff be directed to work with the Village of Montrose and the Electoral Area A Advisory Planning Commission to explore policy and regulatory measures to protect the aquifer.

Since then, a twist was thrown into the mix when Trail announced its intent to expand city boundaries, to include land around the aquifer.

“This is hard to address because Trail hasn’t formally applied yet,” said Danchuk.

“The aquifer is a big concern but we can only move so far in front of the issue,” he said.

Danchuk said a letter has been addressed to Minister Bill Bennett requesting discussion of the issue at the September conference of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) in Vancouver.

“Our letter to the ministry states that we need to work together to protect our water source.”