British Columbia

Comox Valley boil water notice expected to last days

45,000 people in the Comox Valley will have to boil their water until Friday, after heavy rain sent silt and other contaminants into Comox Lake and the Puntledge River.

45,000 people in the Comox Valley affected

Heavy rain sent surface contaminants into local water sources, prompting the CVRD to issue a boil water notice.

People in British Columbia's Comox Valley will likely have to boil their water until at least the end of the week.

The Comox Valley Regional District says water quality was affected by recent heavy rainfall, which sent silt and other surface contaminants into Comox Lake and the Puntledge River.

"We're recommending to get your water to a rolling boil for a minute," said Mike Herschmiller, manager of water services for the CVRD. "That will kill any potential pathogens."

About 45,000 people are affected in Courtenay and Comox, along with people living in the Comox Valley, Arden, Marsden/Camco, Greaves Crescent and England Road service areas.

Herschmiller says it's unclear how much longer the boil water notice will last.

"We're expecting two more days of rainstorms tomorrow and Wednesday. So this one could potentially last a week, or longer."

Ongoing problem

It's not the first time the CVRD has dealt with this type of contamination in the water supply. 

"This is our tenth turbidity-related notice since October 2014," Herschmiller said. 

Herschmiller says a major storm that year, which flooded parts of Courtenay, drew attention to the problem.

"We found there's a lot of turbidity coming into [Comox] Lake — more than we ever realized," he said.

The Comox Valley doesn't currently meet provincial guidelines for surface water treatment.

Herschmiller says the district uses chlorination as its single method of disinfection, while B.C. guidelines require two forms of disinfection.

The regional district is working on plans to upgrade its water treatment system. 

New water treatment system coming

The CVRD is developing both a short-term and a long-term solution to its water disinfection woes.

Construction is expected to begin next month on a UV treatment system, which is expected to be ready by February.

The UV system will later be incorporated into a major filtration and water conveyance system, scheduled to be built by 2020 or 2021. The project is estimated to cost $110.6 million.

Herschmiller says the large scale of the project has kept the CVRD from moving forward more quickly.

"When you're dealing with a hundred-plus million dollar project, you do not want to stick your shovel into the wrong spot," he said. "There's a lot of studies and a lot of work that needs to go into it.

"It is truly pedal to the metal. We are moving forward as fast as we can. But unfortunately, it is not a quick process." 

About the Author

Emily Brass

@EmilyBrass

Emily Brass is the afternoon radio news anchor at CBC Manitoba. She's worked as a national and local journalist at CBC in Montreal, Toronto, St. John's, Victoria and London, U.K.