06/03/2013 06:34 EDT | Updated 08/03/2013 05:12 EDT

White Rock Group Wants City To Control Its Own Water

A White Rock group says the city should take control of its own water supply by purchasing the water utility from the private company that owns it.

Currently the city's water supply is owned by Epcor, a private company held by the City of Edmonton.

Former White Rock city councillor Margaret Woods wants to change that. She and her organization, the White Rock Accountable Water Committee, are holding an event on Monday night to bring awareness to the issue.

Woods also wants the city council to explore the option of purchasing the water utility.

"Many people don't know that our water is owned by the City of Edmonton," Woods said in an interview with Rick Cluff on CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.

"We also want to let council know that we support their submission and hope they will go forward to buy the Epcor utility."

Woods thinks the city's best option is to buy the current utility, but then hook into Metro Vancouver's water system. That move would save millions of dollars in upgrades that are necessary for the city's current water source, the Sunny Uplands aquifer.

"We feel that there are other alternatives and the major one is hooking into the Metro Vancouver system," said Woods.

"Metro Vancouver is spending billions of dollars in treating the water and it gets purer every day."

White Rock City Council will discuss the issue at the next scheduled meeting on June 10.

Current system needs major upgrade

Dan Botterill, the chief administrative officer with the City of White Rock, says a major consideration for the city is whether or not to purchase the water utility before it has to pay for an upcoming upgrade.

He says Epcor has applied to make an $11.5 million upgrade to bring the system in line with Fraser Health's chlorination regulations. Those upgrades must be completed by spring of 2016.

Botterill says, though it's early in the process, the city has a good relationship with Epcor and a subsequent plan to join Metro Vancouver's system would be a possibility.

"We are a member of the Greater Vancouver Regional District. As a member municipality we're entitled to join whereas a private water operator would not have that opportunity," said Botterill.

"Of course, there are costs that would have to be negotiated."

For its part, Epcor, a company that provides water, wastewater, and distribution services to more than 75 communities and counties across Western Canada, seems open to the possibility of selling the water utility to the city.

"We have a good relationship with the City of White Rock," said Epcor spokesperson Tim LeRiche.

"We respect the city's right to explore the feasibility and we're co-operating with them in discussions."

Both Epcor and the City of White Rock said it is too early in the process to provide an estimated cost for White Rock should it move forward with plans to purchase, upgrade and change the water system.

The White Rock Accountable Water Committee's public forum on the future of the city's water source will be held Monday at the First United Church, 15385 Semiahmoo Ave., in White Rock.

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