The RDOS finalized it list of projects for the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund grants program and the Sage Mesa water system is not on the list. I see this as a significant missed opportunity for Area F.
The RDOS cannot apply for a grant for the Sage Mesa water system because the RDOS does not own or control the system. The system is privately owned by the Chapman family but has been managed and controlled by the provincial government out of Victoria since the system was seized in the 1990s. The province contracts with the RDOS to maintain the system (swing the wrenches) but the RDOS has no decision making authority concerning the system.
This situation is not sustainable in my view. The system currently does not meet Interior Health's 4-3-2-1-0 water quality guideline and is facing the possibility of a health order to mandate upgrades. Since a privately-owned system is not eligible for senior government grants, all system costs must be borne by its ratepayers. Thus, if the system is ordered by IHA to meet the 4-3-2-1-0 guideline, or if there is a major failure of the aging infrastructure, the 265 ratepayers in Sage Mesa, Husula, and Westwood are on the hook for 100% of the costs.
According to a 2012 engineering study commissioned the the RDOS, the per-property cost of meeting IHA's guildeline is between $9,500 and $12,000 per property. This is only capital upgrades and does not include the ongoing costs of running a water utility.
The outcome I would have preferred is the following:
- Transfer of the system to RDOS ownership (at no cost, of course; the system is a pure liability, not an asset).
- Apply for senior government grants to upgrade the supply and distribution system. Grants are never certain, but I can absolute guarantee the system will not get a grant in its current configuration.
- Upgrade the system to:
- meet water quality standards
- replace at-risk infrastructure (water lines)
- address capacity issues
To this end, we (me and RDOS staff) have met with a member of the Chapman family, representatives of Interior Health, the system manager from Victoria. various provincial staff and ministers many times over the years in order to move forward. No resolution.
My objective in scribbling this update to make sure that ratepayers on the Sage Mesa system understand the situation and the downside risks they face.
As usual, comments and questions are welcome.