Review announced for tainted Okanagan water source

Independent review of contamination in the Hullcar aquifer is aimed at establishing provincewide regulations and standards for ensuring agricultural practices that protect drinking water sources.

Manure from nearby dairy farm operations suspected cause of contaminated water supply

A water quality advisory issued in July 2014 urged vulnerable people, such as seniors and pregnant women, to avoid drinking water from the Hullcar aquifer. (Getty Images/Flickr RF)

An independent expert will review the connection between a contaminated aquifer in the north Okanagan and nearby agricultural practices, the B.C. Environment Ministry announced Wednesday.

The Hullcar aquifer near Spallumcheen, north of Vernon, has been the subject of water quality advisories since 2014 because of elevated nitrate levels.

The spread of liquid manure on a dairy farm above the drinking water source has long been suspected as a cause of the contamination. 

"Residents need to have faith that government is listening and will be taking action to protect water quality and safety in the region while ensuring agricultural interests are protected," George Heyman, the B.C. minister of environment and climate change said in a news release announcing the review. 

The review will be overseen by Calvin Sandborn, a director with the University of Victoria's Environmental Law Centre.

Province-wide guidelines sought

Heyman said the objective of the review is to establish provincewide guidelines for agricultural practices that will protect drinking water supplies.

Under the water quality advisory issued three years ago, pregnant women, babies under six months of age, the elderly, and individuals with weakened immune systems, or chronic heart, lung and blood conditions were advised to use bottled water instead of the local water supply.