British Columbia

After 5 years, a Vancouver Island community's water quality advisory is lifted

Island Health has lifted a water quality advisory for Bamfield, a small community of about 200 people south of Port Alberni, thanks to a new $2.36 million water treatment facility. A former politician says it could be a boon to residents and the goal of growing tourism.

'It will no longer be a barrier... [the advisory] goes away and we can brag about our water now'

Bamfield, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, is a small community that has had its water quality advisory lifted after five years. (Oleg Mayorov/Shutterstock)

After five long years, a remote community on Vancouver Island's west coast can finally have confidence in its drinking water.

Thanks to a new $2.36 million water treatment facility, Island Health has lifted a water quality advisory for Bamfield, a small community of about 200 people south of Port Alberni. 

"It's very positive story for the community to achieve this," said Keith Wyton, the former Bamfield director of the Alberni-Clayquot Regional District. "It was sort of a dark cloud hanging over us for awhile."

Wyton explained that getting the plant up and running was a years-long process that involved filing for grants and the community itself taking on debt to foot about one quarter of the bill.

An interior shot of Bamfield's new water treatment plant. (Rob Williams)

It was worth it, he added, both for the residents and the community's dream of growing local tourism.

"People won't have to be asking us in Bamfield, well, what's wrong with your water anyway?" Wyton said. "It will no longer be a barrier... [the advisory] goes away and we can brag about our water now."

Long-term health risks

The water treatment plant has been operational since the summer, but Island Health wanted to see it work successfully for several months before declaring an end to the advisory.

Since 2013, water users have been advised to take steps to treat their tap water, including boiling then cooling it or filtering it because of too-high levels of disinfection byproducts.

The byproducts are caused when chlorine used in water treatment mixes with organic materials like twigs and leaves. The community's water comes from nearby Sugsaw Lake, which can be replete with organic matter of that type.

The regional district said it was advised by Island Health that drinking water with those byproducts, over the long tern, may present health risks.

49 advisories in place

Bamfield's water system was not the only one in Island Health's jurisdiction to face some kind of water warning during those five years.

An online resource provided by the authority listed 49 water systems with some kind of advisory in place as of Monday.

The longest advisory listed is for a community on Lasqueti Island, between Texada Island and Vancouver Island, in place since 1994.

The treatment plant was completed in 2018. Keith Wyton said before the project was completed, the district had to apply for a series of grants and complete a planning and engineering process. It also had to foot about 25 per cent of the bill on its own. (Rob Williams)

Lasqueti Island is known for having many residents living "off the grid."

The regional district will host an official grand opening for its new water treatment system on Mar. 1 with fresh fruit and "high-quality H20" for guests.

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