IH engages town in water source protection

Interior Health asks Cache Creek to start working on Source Assessment and Protection Plan for their aquifers.

It seems like yesterday that Cache Creek’s new $2.2 million water treatment plant went online. Not long afterwards, the Village spend endless hours and money dealing with repairs and restoration caused by last May’s unexpected flood.

Now Interior Health is telling the Village to undertake a plan to safeguard its drinking water at the source.

Cache Creek’s drinking water comes from an aquifer that collects at  20 Mile and flows to Cache Creek. In recent years, IH has ordered the town to decommission its five shallow wells and use only its two deep wells.

Health Protection Officer Rob Fleming attended the Jan. 25 Cache Creek Council meeting to talk about the latest requirement for a Source Assessment and Protection Plan.

Council wasn’t overly receptive of the idea.

“We shut down our five shallow wells that we felt were fine but Interior Health didn’t want us using,” said Mayor John Ranta, “got a small grant for our water treatment system and had to dig in our jeans to pay for it. It opened in 2012 after we had endless numbers of consultations and studies to determine what we needed… It seems like just a heartbeat ago, and now this. I feel like much of the work has been done already.”

“The thing that got my attention,” said Ranta, reading from a letter, “was that we need to ‘schedule an initial source water meeting with the Health Protection Officer and the Village’s hydro-geological consultant to establish scope of the next phase prior to issuance of next phase…’ ”

Ranta said the consultants would cost upwards of $24,000 per visit “That’s big money for us.”

Fleming acknowledged the cost, but said he thought the Village could find a consultant for less, considering that much of the information needed for the plan has already been recorded.

The Source Protection and Assessment Plan is one of the seven modules from the Drinking Water Protection Act and Regulation.

“We’re talking the bigger picture,” said Fleming.

Ranching, mining, highway events could impact the aquifer, he said. “At some point you will have to have a technical monitoring committee.”

“It’s a legislative piece,” he said. “I’m here to help you get through some of these pains. We have to think about the future – 100 years from now. I’m willing to listen to how you want to break this down.”

“There are potential hazards if there is a truck spill or something near the aquifer,” said Ranta after the meeting.

IH is asking the Village to identify a wellhead protection plan and generate relationships with those using nearby land for mining, feedlots, and other activities that might impact the water.

The next step, he said, is sitting down with Fleming and administration and having a conversation about timelines for compliance.