Can you hold another referendum?2018-03-23T19:45:57+00:00

The Ministry requires waiting period between referendums of at least six (6) months. However, if the March referendum is unsuccessful the District will wait until January 2016 to see what Island Health decides as the District would be in violation of their mandate to have a plant by January 1, 2016.

What happens if we don’t meet the revised drinking water guidelines?2018-03-23T19:45:28+00:00

We could be charged and fined under the Drinking Water Protection Act.

Can other island residents vote?2018-03-23T19:44:38+00:00

No. Only the District’s ratepayers (landowners) are eligible to vote as they are the people and businesses who will bear the cost of the loan. The ratepayers are the actual owners of the Waterworks. Generally decisions are made on behalf of the ratepayers by their elected Board of Trustees. However, per Improvement District Regulations, all ratepayers must be given an opportunity to vote on the borrowing of funds.

What happens if borrowing is ultimately not approved through either process by the ratepayers?2018-03-23T19:44:10+00:00

If ratepayer approval is not received, to comply with regulations, Island Health may order the matter be taken out of the District’s hands and direct that another agency build the plant.  If the spring referendum fails and Island Health “Orders” us to build (we are currently only mandated) the Order will be forwarded to our regulating ministry, the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, who will then decide whether or not to waive the requirement for ratepayer approval of Borrowing Bylaw #264.  If they grant the waiver, the Board will then approve the bylaw and the district can move forward with financing the project at the appropriate time. If they do not grant a waiver, Island Health may ask another agency, most likely the CRD, to undertake the project.  The District’s ratepayers will still have to bear the cost of the project.

Who is eligible to vote?2018-03-23T19:43:47+00:00

To be eligible, voters must be a Canadian Citizen, 18 years of age or older, a BC resident for at least the past six months, an owner of land in the District who has owned the land for at least 30 days before voting date, whose account is in good standing, and entitled to be registered as a voter under the Elections Act.

You originally asked rate payers to vote on borrowing based on preliminary costs. Why?2018-03-23T19:43:10+00:00

Section 746 (1) (b) of the Local Government Act requires the trustees to adopt a bylaw in order to borrow. However, in the case of borrowing, the Trustees are also required to have ratepayer approval of the bylaw. Once we have approval we can move ahead with borrowing  at the appropriate time. We started off with a maximum amount of  $10.4 million based on a preliminary estimate and have now refined that cost through the Detail Design process. While we are now asking for approval to borrow an amount up to $8.4 million, we hope and expect the amount we borrow will be considerably less. We are actively looking for ways to offset the amount we need to borrow by seeking grants and, as a non-profit who can offer tax receipts, outright donations from ratepayers and islanders.

Do the ratepayers get to vote on this project?2018-03-23T19:42:40+00:00

Yes. The District’s ratepayers had the opportunity to vote on the proposed borrowing for the project on August 16th, with advance polls being held on August 6th and 13th. Per the Eligibility Reuirements, here were 2560 eligible voters (owners & co-owners) 564 ballots were cast. 283 voted NO, 281 voted YES, defeating the referendum by 2 votes.

The District has already spent $535K on aeration and it didn’t work, so why should we trust you with $8.4 million?2018-03-23T19:38:01+00:00

The aerators worked as designed but the complex ecology of St Mary Lake rendered them less effective than anticipated. If other aspects of a comprehensive watershed management plan had been implemented as recommended, the expected improvements may have been realized.

Are there any assets that can be sold to help pay for the plant?2018-03-23T19:37:28+00:00


Why won’t all operating surpluses be used to pay down the loan?2018-03-23T19:37:03+00:00

Currently, operating surpluses are directed to our reserve funds to be used for infrastructure upgrades. We need to continue this practice as the system always needs to be maintained and the District has a long list of required upgrades. We also expect to do a major upgrade at our Maxwell facility and would prefer not to borrow additional funds to do so. A substantial portion of the current funds will be used for the new plant though.

How long will it take to pay off the loan?2018-03-23T19:36:38+00:00

It will take between 21 and 26 years. We are currently looking at the advantages of both 20 and 25 year amortization periods. We can borrow funds from the Ministry for a 20 year fixed term and interest rate. We expect to borrow on an interest only repayment basis for the construction loan.

Why do the ratepayers have to pay for the plant?2018-03-23T19:36:13+00:00

The ratepayers are the actual owners of the Waterworks. We have no other source of funding other than what is contributed by the ratepayers in the way of tolls, parcel tax and surcharges. We are actively seeking grants and donations though to offset the cost.

In the interests of fairness to current and future ratepayers, all of whom will benefit from the new plant, we have decided that the surcharge should be at fixed rate for the entire period; although, when possible it will be reduced.

What is the difference between an Improvement District and a Regional District or an incorporated city/town?2018-03-23T19:35:40+00:00

Improvement Districts predate Regional Districts and typically only provided one or two services. The Regional Districts are the Provincial Governments preferred mechanism for service delivery for providing services in un-incorporated areas and they have a much broader range of responsibilities and authority.

Why won’t the Provincial government help with grant money like other districts?2018-03-23T19:35:11+00:00

To be eligible for a grant, NSSWD would have to convert to a service area of the Capital Regional District or form a Municipal Government.

Per the letter from Minister Oakes:

“In the 1960’s, the Province of British Columbia decided that future rural services would be best delivered through a regional governance model to ensure better standardization of core service delivery, planning and financing. Subsequent policy studies have reinforced this historic position.

When the Province created the modern system of regional districts, it decided not to force improvement districts into joining the new regional governments. Instead, the provincial policy was to create incentives for improvement districts to voluntarily join regional districts.

One of these key incentives is grant eligibility. If an improvement district would like access to senior government grants, it must be prepared to join an existing local government through a municipal boundary extension or the conversion to a regional district service area.”

I heard you wrote to the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development months ago about grants. What did she have to say?2018-03-23T19:28:23+00:00

Yes, we have written to Minister Oakes twice to ask for an exemption to their policy but each time were advised we would not receive one.

Are we able to get any infrastructure grants? If not, why not?2018-03-23T19:28:02+00:00

No. The District is only eligible for infrastructure grants if we join an existing local government, such as the CRD, or if, for example, the island incorporated into municipality.

Can we share costs with anyone?2018-03-23T19:27:28+00:00

No. The costs of the new plant can only be shared by the ratepayers in our district (we are one of the 15 on the island).  We currently have 2,076 parcels on our tax role, the owners of which will share the cost.  Unlike a project such as the Fire Hall, costs cannot be shared island-wide nor can we receive federal and provincial funding assistance.

How much has the District saved towards the new plant?2018-03-23T19:26:56+00:00

We currently have approximately $1.1 million in our reserve funds. We plan to use a significant portion of these funds to cover the cost of the detailed design, which will help reduce the amount we need to borrow. However, we also have other capital projects that we need to complete such as upgrades to the Cranberry water mains.

For Borrowing Bylaw 264, we are asking our ratepayers to approve borrowing up to a maximum of $8.4 million; the amount we feel is the worst case scenario. The board and management would like to stress that the Ministry requires us to state a maximum borrowing amount in the Borrowing Bylaw and the maximum taxation impact ratepayers can expect. We fully expect that the use of reserve funds, a successful donor campaign and any additional savings found through the bidding phase will lower the borrowing cost and taxation impact further.

How can you be sure costs won’t get out of control?2018-03-23T19:26:23+00:00

We know that the worst case scenario is in the neighbourhood of $8.4 million. However, we are already working diligently to reduce that number before borrowing for the construction. The detailed design has allowed us to hone in on costs and costs-savings and it is hoped the bidding process will identify further savings.

We will identify all costs up front, and in areas where we believe there could be further cost savings we will seek cost reductions.

How much are our rates going to increase per customer?2018-03-23T19:25:37+00:00

We do not plan to raise our water toll or parcel tax rates to cover the cost of borrowing. Instead we will implement a fixed surcharge. As the interest rate cannot be fixed until the time of borrowing, which we expect to be sometime in late 2016, we are currently working with a number between $250-$290 annually per customer/ratepayer. Reduced costs will result in a lower surcharge though. Money raised through our donor campaign will lower the amount we need to borrow, further lowering the surcharge. Tolls and parcel tax revenue will continue to cover normal operating costs and other infrastructure/capital costs. Toll and Parcel Tax rates will be determined each year, as they are now, in order to cover annual operating costs.

What will it cost to operate the plant? Will operating costs increase? If so, by how much?2018-03-23T19:25:14+00:00

The increased operating expenditures for the WTP and associated systems are estimated at $350K per year, mainly due to the handling of the waste materials. Our overall operating costs for our entire system are not expected to increase beyond the normal inflation rate.

Will you use the current reserve funds to help pay for the project?2018-03-23T19:24:42+00:00

Yes. We’ve paid for the cost of the Detail Design out of the reserve funds and we will use our current reserves and surcharge money collected this year as much as possible to offset to borrowing costs, while still retaining a prudent amount in reserve for emergencies and other capital projects.

Are there other costs that you haven’t told us about?2018-03-23T19:24:03+00:00

No, none that we are aware off at this time. As we progress through the tender process the costs and possible cost savings will become more refined.

What will be the cost of the water treatment plant project?2018-03-23T19:23:52+00:00

The detail design estimates for the cost of construction are $8.4 million dollars, including commissioning. This figure includes a 10% contingency. Funds raised in the donor campaign will also be used to offset the amount the district needs to borrow as will the use of reserve funds. The district continues to actively look for grants.

Will the new treatment plant remove turbidity?2018-03-23T19:22:03+00:00

Yes. Turbidity is a measure of the clarity or cloudiness of water caused by suspended particles. The DAF process is very effective at reducing turbidity. Coupled with filtration, the DAF process will provide extremely clear water that is suitable for disinfection by ultraviolet light.

Will the new plant remove Cryptosporidium and Giardia parasites?2018-03-23T19:21:39+00:00

Yes. The DAF process can help to remove these microscopic parasites from treated water by physically removing their cells. Although chlorine is not effective, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light has been shown to be effective against these parasites. For this reason, the new treatment process will also include primary disinfection using UV light.

Will the new treatment plant remove algal toxins?2018-03-23T19:21:08+00:00

Yes. The DAF process will physically remove algal cells and any toxins that are contained within those cells. Toxins that are outside the cells will be destroyed by chemical oxidation.

During the 2011-2013 bloom, toxin in the raw water was destroyed by chlorine. Chlorine alters the chemical structure of the toxins and renders them harmless. However, this process required higher levels of chlorine than are typically used to disinfect water and resulted in taste and odour problems as well as increased disinfection by-products. The new treatment process will enable toxin destruction through use of a more effective chemical oxidant, potassium permanganate, thereby minimizing those problems.

Why not start using Maxwell Lake?2018-03-23T19:20:32+00:00

Maxwell Lake is about a quarter the size of St Mary Lake so it cannot supply enough water to be a sustainable solution.

Because Maxwell is a surface water source, drinking water from Maxwell also requires adequate treatment and disinfection per Island health’s 4-3-2-1 Policy. Eventually, upgraded treatment facilities will be required for the Maxwell system as well. In addition, to increase withdrawal from Maxwell, large infrastructure improvements would be necessary such as additional storage and larger water mains.

Will the new plant change the lake levels in any way?2018-03-23T19:18:14+00:00


How will this affect the fish and/or other aquatic organisms in the lake? Will the useable fish habitat area be significantly reduced either temporarily or permanently? If yes, what are you going to do to mitigate this?2018-03-23T19:17:03+00:00

We will take all possible precautions and follow all requirements, guidelines and best practices to prevent any harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat during construction.

The Contractor selected will be required to follow all necessary Guidelines & Best practices, as outlined in the contract documents.

How will the new plant impact the lake?2018-03-23T19:16:35+00:00

There should be no impact on the lake from the new plant.

How will the new plant affect the riparian area?2018-03-23T19:16:13+00:00

There will be minor disruptions during construction but appropriate construction methods will minimize any negative impacts.

We have heard that a couple of ratepayers came up with a rough plan for an alternative plant design and are suggesting the use of an alternative type of contract.2018-03-23T19:13:38+00:00

In Response:

At the May 28/14 Board meeting, ratepayers Jon Scott and Ron McKenzie presented the NSSWD Board with an alternate contracting model, the Design Build Contract. The Board, being well aware of this contract delivery model, considered their input, but still felt that a Fixed Price Contract is the most suitable and cost effective contact model for the District. This model is also a requirement of the Royal Bank, who will be financing this project.

At a special meeting held on July 25/14 at the NSSWD office, Mr. McKenzie, Stantec Engineering Consultants and IDL Projects presented a hastily developed alternative design and suggested that we should terminate our relationship with Kerr Wood Leidal (KWL), who are currently in the midst of preparing the Detailed Design, and allow them control of the project by way of a design build contract. They stated that they felt they could save on the cost of the treatment plant using this contract model although the District would lose direct control of the costs.

The Board would like to reiterate our faith in our Consulting Engineers, KWL, and the current process of a fixed price contract based on a comprehensive Detailed Design, and constructed by a Prime Contractor with all the requisite skills to be the best choice for our ratepayers.

The Board of Trustees feels that the loss of control of the project, by way of a design build contract, for only the possibility of savings is not worth the risk. These apparent cost savings, can only be based on this team’s very limited knowledge of the site constraints, existing facilities and, in particular, the operational considerations of the District. We believe that if this team were to be privy to all the pertinent information that KWL and NSSWD have regarding this project, there is a strong likelihood that they would come to the same design conclusions that we have.

Therefore the Board feels that their current course of action is the responsible choice and the one that meets the approval of the majority of ratepayers.

Are there any alternative designs?2018-03-23T19:12:54+00:00

No, however different configurations for the site and plant were examined during the preliminary design phase. The design is quite basic. It will be a simple two storey rectangular building built partially underground into the side of the hill to minimize any risk from potential rock fall damage in the event of an earthquake and sized to house the necessary water treatment equipment and associated waste treatment processes.

What will happen to the old plant?2018-03-23T19:12:33+00:00

The old plant is at the end of its life and is structurally unsound. It will be removed and reused or recycled. The site will then house auxiliary power facilities to maintain operations in the event of a prolonged power failure.

When will it open?2018-03-23T19:12:06+00:00

We are currently mandated to be up and running by January 1, 2016, but now expect that late 2016 early 2017 is a more realistict deadline.

How long will it take to build?2018-03-23T19:11:37+00:00

Once construction starts, it is expected to take between 8-12 months to build.

Will the new plant structure allow for additional equipment to be added at a future date or will an addition be needed in the future?2018-03-23T19:10:51+00:00

The current design will allow for the future installation of de-watering treatment equipment on the upper level. The Kerr Wood Leidal Hydrology Study and Water Budget for St Mary Lake and its watershed conclude that St Mary Lake is now fully allocated. In light of these findings, the proposed water treatment plant has been scaled back to match the current license without consideration of any further expansion. Reduced plant capacity has had a positive impact on the overall plant cost.

Will building the new plant damage the St. Mary watershed?2018-03-23T19:10:29+00:00

There will be some temporary damage to the actual building site and some trees will have to be removed. Once construction is complete, the site will be re-landscaped with appropriate plantings.

Will the building have any special features or amenities such as an office or meeting rooms?2018-03-23T19:09:58+00:00

There will be a small lab and office for the operator on the upper level for on-site work. The only other amenity will be a two-piece washroom.

What structural parameters does the design have to meet? Does the structure have to be earthquake proof? Why?2018-03-23T19:09:22+00:00

We live in an earthquake area along the Pacific Rim in what is known as “the ring of fire”. Therefore, per BC Building Code requirements for this type of facility, it has to be rated post-disaster and the design must address site constraints and mitigate against any rock fall hazard. Both criteria eliminate some alternative building options which could be considered for an above-ground, non-disaster rated structure.

The building, as designed, is a basic no-frills concrete structure, designed to be able to run after a major disaster and to meet the requirements of being built partially underground.

Who’s going to build the new plant? Will it go to tender?2018-03-23T19:08:47+00:00

The builder has not been chosen. When the Detailed Design is complete and the borrowing bylaw approved, we will issue a “Request for Qualifications” and solicit expressions of interest from qualified contractors who have experience with similar projects, especially water treatment plants, and are bondable and insurable. Selected contractors who meet the qualifications will then be invited to bid on the contract. The successful bidder will act as the Prime Contractor and sub-contract out specialised segments of the construction. Once the qualified bidders have been selected we will supply any local contractors interested in working on the plant with the Qualified Bidder contact information and they can contact them directly.

Do upgrades have to be made to the current site? If so, what?2018-03-23T19:08:16+00:00

Yes. A retaining wall will be built from blasted rock and access will be improved to make the sloping lot more usable.

Why are you building on the present site, particularly if it is so costly to build on?2018-03-23T19:07:49+00:00

We chose to build on the present site for several reasons:

  • We own the land and there is room to build on it.
  • The location works well for what we have planned.
  • We looked at other sites on the lake, and the current site was deemed the most suitable as well as being the most cost effective from the District’s viewpoint. i.e. No extra funds need to be found to purchase the land, therefore lowering the project cost.
  • Any site chosen around the lake would be costly to build on and would present its own unique challenges.
Is there room for a new plant on the current site?2018-03-23T19:06:58+00:00


What is the difference between a preliminary design and a detailed design?2018-03-23T19:06:37+00:00

The Preliminary Design, which took 10 months to complete, is a report that examines the:

  • existing system, including water quality, quantity and licenses
  • regulatory and permit requirements
  • environmental and geotechnical conditions of the site and watershed
  • design criteria
  • intake and raw water pumping
  • proposed treatment processes, including disinfection options
  • waste and residuals handling
  • the proposed design of the WTP and low-lift pump station buildings
  • Process controls and alarms
  • Projected costs

It includes the preliminary design drawings for the plant and site.

The Detailed Design used the preliminary design report and drawings to create the detailed site, architectural, structural, mechanical and electrical drawings needed for the bidding and building processes.

Is the Detailed Design done yet?2018-03-23T19:05:32+00:00

Yes. Both the Preliminary Design and Detail Designs are now complete. To keep the project moving along, the Board of Directors commissioned KWL to complete the Detailed Design which cost $637K and took about 10 months to complete. It was fully paid for out of the reserve funds (reducing the borrowing amount). When the borrowing bylaw has been approved, we will issue a “Request for Qualifications” and solicit bids from qualified contractors who have experience with similar projects, and are bondable and insurable.

What will the new plant consist of?2018-03-23T19:04:44+00:00

A wet-well housing the raw water pumps and intake pipes will be situated near the shoreline.

The main building will be a concrete structure, partially underground. The main floor will house two DAF “trains” and all ancillary equipment such as pumps, pipes and electrical equipment. A small office, lab and bathroom as well as chlorine-generating equipment and waste de-watering equipment will be housed on the upper floor. Finished water and process waste will be stored under the main floor for reuse, disposal or delivery to the distribution system.

Why did you not go to open bids for a designer/why did you select KWL to do the preliminary design?2018-03-23T19:04:16+00:00

Several years ago the Board and Staff began a review of consulting engineers in BC with experience in designing water treatment plants.

While there are many engineering firms available, there are a limited number of firms who specialize in water treatment plant design and have a proven track record with small water systems. The largest design company was also approached early in the process, but advised that a project of our size was too small for them. The review process ultimately led to the commissioning of Kerr Wood Leidal Consulting Engineers (KWL). While this is the first project that KWL has done for us, KWL have designed numerous water treatment projects of comparable size and scope throughout BC. We feel that we chose the best firm for the job in the most cost-efficient manner.

How will waste products be handled?2018-03-23T19:02:40+00:00

We are currently examining all options for disposal of the liquid waste or “float” from the DAF process. Waste from the other DAF water treatment plants on SSI is currently trucked to the Burgoyne Bay Liquid Waste Facility operated by the CRD. The District will determine if a more cost-effective option exists and select the option that gives our ratepayers the best overall value.

Do you have any experience with DAF technology?2018-03-23T19:02:21+00:00

Yes, the District’s Staff commissioned and have been operating the Fulford and Beddis DAF Plants for the CRD for a number of years and have become very familiar with the operation of this technology. They are also well aware of the retrofits that these plants needed after construction to mitigate noise and other issues.

I heard that DAF is a new technology, so is it proven?2018-03-23T19:01:48+00:00

Yes. The Dissolved Air Floatation process has been widely used for water clarification for the last 40 years and, in the last 20 years, DAF has become the main alternative to sedimentation. In the case of St Mary Lake, the use of floatation makes more sense than sedimentation because the algae cells are semi-buoyant and do not settle effectively. On Salt Spring, the Fernwood-Highland, Beddis and Fulford water systems are already using DAF technology.

Do you have to upgrade the delivery system infrastructure as well?2018-03-23T19:01:25+00:00

No major upgrades are needed, but some upgrades will be required for the effective operation of the new plant and will be part of the new plant cost. Other works will be ongoing as part of the District’s ongoing infrastructure upgrades.

What water quality can we expect from a new plant? Will the DAF process improve my household water quality?2018-03-23T19:00:05+00:00

The new DAF facility will deliver high quality drinking water. Users will experience a significant improvement in taste and odour with this updated treatment process. Not only will the ‘earthy’ taste and odour be gone but that of chlorine will also be reduced.

What are the benefits of DAF technology?2018-03-23T18:59:43+00:00
  • The DAF process can accommodate facilities needing a small “footprint”.
  • The DAF process will physically remove algal cells and any toxins that are contained within those cells. Toxins that are outside the cells will be destroyed by chemical oxidation.
  • The DAF process can help to remove microscopic parasites from treated water by physically removing their cells.
  • The DAF process is very effective at reducing turbidity. Coupled with filtration, the DAF process will provide extremely clear water that is suitable for disinfection by UV light.

Once these substances have been removed, less chlorine will be required for disinfection and the taste and odour of the finished water will be significantly improved.

What is DAF?2018-03-23T18:58:55+00:00

Dissolved Air Floatation (DAF) is the process of floating the particulate and organic material to the surface of a tank instead of trying to settle them out before removal.

Why was DAF technology selected?2018-03-23T18:58:24+00:00

Dissolved Air Floatation (DAF) was selected based on Earth Tech Engineering’s 2005 Pilot Study which confirmed that this was the best available technology for St Mary Lake water quality. Island Health has mandated that this technology be used.

I am supplied with water from Maxwell Lake which is pure and clean, so why must I pay for those that are supplied from the lesser quality St. Mary Lake?2018-03-23T18:41:53+00:00

Ratepayers share many facilities and services no matter which lake their water is drawn from and always have. Also, our two distribution systems are connected so that many rate payers can be served from either system should there be a need to shut one down temporarily.

Is the water from the current St. Mary plant safe to drink?2018-03-23T18:41:29+00:00

Yes. Water in the St. Mary system consistently meets the requirements of the Drinking Water Protection Regulation for E. coliand total and fecal coliforms. However, at times, the water in the distribution system water exceeds the maximum levels of some disinfection by-products (DBPs) recommended by the Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines. The high concentration of organic matter in the water leads to the formation of DBPs when chlorine is added for disinfection. With the new DAF water treatment plant is online, the reduced organic matter in the finished water and use of UV light as a primary disinfectant will reduce the DBPs to acceptable levels.

What about the Maxwell treatment plant? Do you have to build a new one there too?2018-03-23T18:40:56+00:00

Yes, at some point in the future. While Island Health has mandated that a new treatment plant be built for the Maxwell system, Maxwell Lake does not currently face the same water quality issues as St. Mary. Unlike St. Mary, the Maxwell watershed is largely intact and undeveloped. Protection of the Maxwell watershed will help to prevent deterioration of water quality and could allow the District more flexibility in future treatment requirements.

What’s the matter with the current technology?2018-03-23T18:40:12+00:00

The current technology is old and has reached its limit for use. It is not capable of fully meeting Island Health’s new mandate.

Can’t the current plant be expanded?2018-03-23T18:39:50+00:00

No. It is not large enough nor is it suitable for the new equipment, plus it must remain operational while the new plant is being built and commissioned.

When was the current plant built?2018-03-23T18:39:12+00:00

Our current plant is approximately 42 years old. Phase #1 of the plant was built on the present Tripp Road site and became operational in 1973. Phase #2 was built in 1982. Over the years, equipment has been upgraded, changed or added but it is essentially the same treatment plant some 42 years later.

Why is Island Health directing the District to build a water treatment plant?2018-03-23T18:38:46+00:00

Regulation of drinking water quality is a provincial responsibility. Each province and territory has developed legislation and/or policies to protect the quality of drinking water from source to tap. All jurisdictions base their requirements on the Canadian Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality and enforce them through legislation, regulation or permitting.

In BC, the authority for regulating drinking water quality rests with the Ministry of Health. In most Canadian communities, drinking water is treated, stored and delivered to homes and businesses by an incorporated Local Government, such as a city or an Improvement District like the North Salt Spring Waterworks District. The District manages the day-to-day operation, maintenance and monitoring of the drinking water treatment and distribution to ensure the water delivered to consumers meets the required drinking water quality standards. Water quality standards for all districts in BC are established by the BC Drinking Water Protection Regulation. Island Health (formerly the Vancouver Island Health Authority -VIHA) has the authority to enforce the regulation through treatment standards (the 4-3-2-1 Policy) and by attaching conditions to water system operating permits. In the case of the District’s permit for the St Mary system, Island Health has included a condition to comply with the 4-3-2-1 Policy through the use of DAF water treatment technology. On Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, all surface water systems serving over 500 people have had their operating permits modified to meet this treatment standard. The purpose of the policy is to add additional barriers in the multi-barrier approach to safe drinking water.

To comply with Island Health’s treatment standard, the District, as the water system owner, is required to provide two treatment processes including filtration. The permit also includes a condition to meet a schedule for the design, construction and start-up of a DAF water treatment plant. The District must construct the plant because the terms and conditions on the Operating Permit are legally binding. It must also be noted that the other key reason for building is that the current plant is at the end of its life.

What is a leak allowance?2018-07-24T19:49:46+00:00

If you have a leak, and have called us to let us know about it and again when it is fixed, when we calculate your next water usage bill we may grant you a one-time leak allowance for the billing period on your next bill. It is generally based on your past history of usage at the same time of year in past years. Ratepayers are entitled to one leak allowance in a three year period. Please view our Leak Allowance Policy for detailed information.
For example: You think you have a leak, you call and tell us, we check it out, you do have one, it gets fixed and you let us know. When we read your meter for the “leaky period” we note that you used 10,000 gallons of water. Your normal usage, based on the same period for the prior three years is generally around 4,500 gallons. We would give you a credit/leak allowance on your bill based on a three year average of gallons used plus 10% or 20%, depending on the type of leak, minus the amount of the leak as illustrated below.

Meter Reading10,000gallons
3 yr. average for period-4,500gallons
10% of average-450gallons
Amount of Leak Allowance5,050gallons

Ratepayers are encouraged to repair leaks as soon as they are detected. It is also important not to leave hoses or faucets running.

Who is responsible for fixing a leak?2018-03-19T21:45:31+00:00

Our operator will determine if the leak is on our side of the meter, making it our responsibility to fix. If not, and the leak is on your side of the meter in your (the homeowner’s) water supply system, it is your responsibility to both find and fix the leak.

How can I tell if my toilet is leaking?2018-03-19T21:44:46+00:00

Free toilet testing kits are available at the District office, or try putting a few of drops of red food colouring in the tank so that the water is visibly coloured, and then watch to see if the water in the bowl starts to turn that colour. If it does, you have a leak.

I think I have a leak. What should I do?2018-03-19T21:44:17+00:00

Sometimes a leak is obvious and you, or your plumber, may discover it yourselves. At other times it is not so obvious – perhaps you’ll notice an unexplained boggy spot in your garden during the summer and wonder what’s causing it.
In either case, call us right away. We will send one of our operators out to check your meter to see if it is spinning, which indicates that water is running constantly.
When doing our bi-monthly meter reading if we notice an abnormally high reading we will also have an operator check out your meter. If it is determined that there might be a leak we will phone you and let you know so you can have it attended to, or if it is our responsibility we will attend to it.
Please Note: We do our best to catch unusually high readings, but if we miss it and when you open your bill and find your usage has gone way up for no reason that you can think of please call us right away so we can check it out for you.

Basic Leak Facts:2018-03-19T21:43:47+00:00

A toilet that leaks/runs after flushing or has a slow leak could be wasting between 4-9 gallons (20-40 litres) per hour or between approximately 35,000 – 78,000 gallons (175,000 – 350,000 litres) per year. The average garden hose delivers approximately 6 gallons (27 litres) of water per minute (360 gallons/hr., 8640 gallons/day). Be sure to turn your hose off after use and to check couplings, hoses, irrigation systems and sprinker heads for holes regularly. Even a small hole could cost you several hundred to several thousand dollars in a two month period. If you do find a leak, repair or replace the part immediately.

Note: Outside taps for hoses are considered part of your irrigation system.

Is fluoride added to the treated water?2018-03-19T21:43:00+00:00

No. We do not add fluoride.

How much water goes into and out of St. Mary Lake each year?2018-03-19T21:53:37+00:00

I’ve heard that algae is a problem in other parts of Canada. Is that true?2018-03-19T21:41:47+00:00

Yes. The algae blooms that continue to plague St. Mary Lake are not unique to Salt Spring, in fact they are a concern across Canada and world-wide. Below are some links to articles to help islanders understand the breadth of this phenomenon and what’s been done about it both in Canada and abroad.

a) Health Canada – Blue-Green Algae (Cyanobacteria) and their Toxins

b) Blue-Green Algae common in Every Province – article from the Kenora Daily Miner & News

c) Cure for blue-green algae proposed: Montreal – The Quebec government is studying the use of artificial islands to soak up excess water-borne nutrients that are causing toxic blue-green algae to invade the province’s lakes and rivers again this year.

d) Blue-green algae concerns world experts: At a time when blue-green algae is choking lakes in many parts of Canada, 1,500 experts from 61 countries met in Montreal to discuss the problems confronting the world’s fresh water.

e) Research paper from the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences: High microcystin concentrations occur only at low nitrogen-to-phosphorus ratios in nutrient-rich Canadian lakes

f) Liver toxin found in lakes of every province: Highest concentrations of microcystin found in waters of Alberta and Manitoba – By Bob Weber, Canadian Press August 15, 2012

g) Lakes in Every Province are Becoming a Health Hazard: August 15, 2012 o Canada.com

Want even more information? Type blue-green algae into your search engine.

I noticed foam along the shoreline of the lake. What causes it? Is it harmful?2018-03-19T21:40:05+00:00

Foam occurs naturally on lakes, rivers and oceans. This BC Ministry of the Environment Fact Sheet will assist you in understanding foam on BC waterbodies and this University of Maine website has simple explanations and photos of things that appear on surface water.

My water is brown. What could be causing it?2018-03-19T21:38:58+00:00

Aerators circulate oxygen to the lower levels of the lake water. Cold deep water loses its oxygen during summer. Aeration of the bottom water during the summer months provides needed oxygen to water that has become depleted due to a process called stratification. When this happens, phosphorus that has settled into the lake bottom sediments dissolves back into the water. When the surface water temperature cools in the fall, the surface water mixes with the deep water and the deep water phosphorus mixes throughout the entire lake, leading to an annual cycle of algae blooms. Circulating oxygen to the lower depths of the lake helps to inhibits the release of phosphorus from the sediment and encourages production of the insoluble chemical forms of the element, thus reducing the blooms. (To learn more about stratification click here.)

What do the aerators do?2018-03-19T21:38:00+00:00

Aerators circulate oxygen to the lower levels of the lake water. Cold deep water loses its oxygen during summer. Aeration of the bottom water during the summer months provides needed oxygen to water that has become depleted due to a process called stratification. When this happens, phosphorus that has settled into the lake bottom sediments dissolves back into the water. When the surface water temperature cools in the fall, the surface water mixes with the deep water and the deep water phosphorus mixes throughout the entire lake, leading to an annual cycle of algae blooms. Circulating oxygen to the lower depths of the lake helps to inhibits the release of phosphorus from the sediment and encourages production of the insoluble chemical forms of the element, thus reducing the blooms. (To learn more about stratification click here.)

What is an algal bloom?2018-03-19T21:36:46+00:00

An algal bloom is a rapid increase or accumulation in the population of algae (typically microscopic plants) in an aquatic system. Generally, only one or a small number of phytoplankton species are involved, and some blooms may be recognized by discoloration of the water resulting from the high density of pigmented cells. Algal blooms are often green, but they can also be other colors such as yellow-brown or red, depending on the species of algae.Freshwater algal blooms are the result of an excess of nutrients, particularly phosphorus. The excess of nutrients may originate from fertilizers that are applied to land for agricultural or recreational purposes.

They may also originate from household cleaning products containing phosphorus. These nutrients can then enter watersheds through water runoff, although the primary source of phosphorus for lakes is not run-off from surrounding properties, as many would think. The element occurs naturally in sediments. Its release into the overlying water is governed by the concentration of oxygen in the lake’s bottom water. The lack of oxygen in the bottom water results in a release of soluble phosphorus which is taken up by the algae. Conversely, when there is sufficient oxygen, insoluble compounds of phosphorus form and remain, or are transferred to the sediments. Excess carbon and nitrogen have also been suspected as causes.

When phosphates are introduced into water systems, higher concentrations cause increased growth of algae and plants. Algae tend to grow very quickly under high nutrient availability, but each alga is short-lived, and the result is a high concentration of dead organic matter which starts to decay. The decay process consumes dissolved oxygen in the water, resulting in hypoxic conditions. Without sufficient dissolved oxygen in the water, animals and plants may die off in large numbers(1).
(1) Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algal_bloom

Why is the water in St. Mary Lake somethimes a funny colour and is it safe to drink?2018-03-19T21:35:18+00:00

Water discolouration is caused by algal blooms. Our treated water is safe to drink and meets Health Canada guidelines.

Who sets water quality guidelines?2018-03-19T21:32:05+00:00

Water quality guidelines are set by Health Canada in their “Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality”.

How often is the water tested and what is it tested for?2018-03-19T21:31:31+00:00

Both untreated and treated water is tested for bacteriological and chemical quality following a comprehensive schedule covering many constituents and locations. The chlorine residual and turbidity is monitored continuously at the distribution system entry at both St Mary Lake and Lake Maxwell.

Who maintains the fire hydrants in the District?2018-03-19T21:30:53+00:00

All fire hydrants in the District are maintained by the District.

Who can attend a meeting of the district’s board of trustees?2018-03-19T21:30:16+00:00

Any district ratepayer may attend a regular meeting of the district’s board of trustees. Meetings are generally held the third Wednesday of each month in the District office. We ask that anyone planning to attend please advise the Office Manager at least one week ahead of time in order that time for whatever issue they wish to discuss may be placed on the agenda. In camera meetings are not open to ratepayers. In camera meetings are limited to situations where the trustees are discussing issues related to the purchase or sale of land, legal issues or personnel matters.

Who can be a trustee?2018-03-19T21:29:37+00:00

To be eligible to be nominated and elected as a trustee you must be a Canadian Citizen, a resident of British Columbia for the prior six months, 18 years of age or older, an owner of land in the Improvement District, and entitled to be registered as a voter under the Elections Act.

How many district trustees are there and how long do they serve?2018-03-19T21:28:53+00:00

The district is served by five (5) trustees. Each trustee serves for a three (3) year term, and may be re-elected at the end of his or her term. To provide continuity, terms are staggered, with one or two terms ending each year. One or two trustees are elected at the Annual General Meeting each year to fill the vacancies. At the first board of trustees meeting after the election the trustees elect a chairperson and vice-chair.

How many community water systems are there on the island?2018-03-19T21:28:13+00:00

There are 15 community water systems, 5 supplied from lakes and 10 from wells. This includes 6 CRD water service areas, 5 improvement districts, and 1 society. North Salt Spring Waterworks District operates its own and 6 other community water systems with our trained and experienced operators.

How big is our district? How many customers are in the district?2018-03-19T21:27:28+00:00

The North Salt Spring Waterworks service area has approximately 50 kilometers of pipes in its distribution system covering about 2,938 hectares (7,262 acres) encompassing 2,087 properties with 1,792 connections ranging in size from ¾” to 6” in diameter.

Who regulates our district?2018-03-19T21:25:56+00:00

All BC improvement districts are regulated by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing. We follow the guidelines as set out in their Improvement District Manual, which is also governed by Part 23 of BC’s Local Government Act and BC’s Community Charter.

When will the first new treatment plant be built?2018-03-19T21:25:27+00:00

Building the new St. Mary Lake plant began in August 2017. Construction is expected to take 10-11 months. It is expected to be up and running by fall 2018.

What are the Benefits of a New Treatment Plant?2018-03-19T21:24:38+00:00

A modern treatment plant using the Dissolved Air Floatation (DAF) plus filtration:

1. Reduces customer health risk from cyanobacterial toxins by gently removing algal cells.

2. Reduces disinfection by-products by removing the organic material required to form disinfection by-products.

3. Reduces Giardia and Cryptosporidium parasite health risk by ultra violet primary disinfection.

4. Reduces the chlorine dosage required to maintain distribution system residual.

5. Improves water taste and odour.

6. Produces sparkling clear water even during an algal bloom.

7. Will increase both capacity and reliability of service.

Why do we need new treatment plants? Aren’t the current ones adequate?2018-03-19T21:23:10+00:00

While our current treatment systems meet our current needs and water quality requirements, our St. Mary Lake plant is forty-plus years old and has reached its volume capacity. Over the last few years Health Canada has introduced more stringent guidelines for water treatment and the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) has mandated that we must improve treatment at both St. Mary Lake and Maxwell Lake. New, more sophisticated treatment processes will reduce any taste and odour issues and provide much better control when dealing with algae blooms and any other water quality issues, and will meet our regulated mandate for provision of safe drinking water.

Is there any value in being on the parcel tax roll?2018-03-19T21:20:04+00:00

Yes, especially if you plan to sell your property. Being on the tax roll means you are, or can be, part of a utility with full-time trained staff, meeting current standards, using current technology, and benefiting from economies of scale. While you may not wish to have service a new owner may well want it. As you are already on the tax roll, typically this means the Capital Expenditure Charge has already been paid and the water line is in place on the road allowance waiting to be connected. Many prospective owners see value in this.

Can I opt out of the District?2018-03-19T21:19:24+00:00

No. The provincial government considers all lots within our District who have paid the Capital Expenditure Charge as part of our tax roll and therefore we are responsible for managing these accounts.

I live within the bounds of the District but do not pay the parcel tax or have water service. Why do I have to pay the CEC, install the water line and pay a connection fee to obtain service?2018-03-19T21:18:33+00:00

There are a few properties within the District boundaries that when the District was formed or later expanded opted not to install infrastructure or pay the Capital Expenditure Charge, often because the existing well was providing all the water needed. Until the Capital Expenditure Charge is paid, the lot is not part of the District tax roll and therefore not entitled to service. To become part of the District the landowner must pay the current applicable Capital Expenditure Charge, install any necessary water main service lines at their own expense, and pay the applicable fees to have a meter service installed and connected.

How did I get on the District Tax roll if I don’t have water service?2018-03-19T21:17:55+00:00

The District has been in operation for 100 years. At some point in time when the district boundaries were formed or expanded to include your property the owner /developer at that time would have had to pay the Capital Expenditure Charge (CEC) in order to be included in the District. For some reason they either decided not to complete the process by having a service connected or were connected and at another time opted to have the water service inactivated. However, once the Capital Expenditure Charge was paid they became part of the District and part of the District’s Water Parcel Tax roll. The lot is ready to connect or re-connect (upon payment of the applicable fees).

I have a lot in the North Salt Spring Waterworks District but I do not have water service. Why do I have to pay the annual water parcel tax since I don’t receive any water?2018-03-19T21:17:07+00:00

Water parcel tax is actually part of the annual property tax a landowner pays. Provincial law allows us to collect our portion directly from the landowners in the North Salt Spring District rather than having the Minister of Finance BC or the Capital Regional District (CRD) collect it for us and then apportioning funds back to the District. This way, money collected for the water system in our District is both collected in and spent to the benefit of our District.

What is the “Court of Revision”?2018-03-19T21:16:20+00:00

Held annually, the Court of Revision is a process that allows ratepayers who feel that there has been an error made with regards to their assessed lot size to dispute their assessment. For example: The assessment states that they are a Lot Size B, and they feel they are a size A, they may bring their proof to dispute this to the Court of Revision. District rates and other issues may not be discussed at the Court. The 2015 Court of Revision will be held on Wednesday, March 4, 2015 at 1:00 pm.

Who determines how tax money is spent?2018-03-19T21:15:38+00:00

The district staff prepare an annual operations budget for review and approval by the board of trustees. However, all expenditures for capital works, such as a new treatment plant, requiring the borrowing of funds must first be approved by the trustees and then by the district’s ratepayers through an referendum or alternate approval process. Depending on the size and nature of the expenditure, a by-law must be passed by the Trustees and then approved by BC’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing.

What are the parcel tax monies used for?2018-03-19T21:14:59+00:00

Parcel tax monies are used partly for operating costs, to pay down long term debt on capital projects and the excess is generally held in reserve for new projects and improvements.

What do you use the water toll money for?2018-03-19T21:14:29+00:00

Monies collected from our water tolls are used to fund the District’s annual operating expenses.

Who determines the amount of the annual increase?2018-03-19T21:13:58+00:00

The district trustees set the amount of the increase on behalf of the ratepayers. Increases are determined based on analysis of operations costs, comsumption habits and future needs.

Why did the water toll and parcel tax rates increase so much in the last few years?2018-03-19T21:13:17+00:00

We needed first to meet our annual operating costs. Each year these costs have increased with inflation. Plus we needed to replace old, worn out facilities and infrastructure, and continue to improve the safety and reliability of your water supply. In order to commence any replacement and improvement projects we needed a parcel tax and toll structure that will enable us to finance, and then operate, and maintain them. In other words, we need to plan for the future – for a sustainable waterworks.

In the early 2000s, in order to meet mandated treatment requirements and ensure sufficient treatment capacity, the District Trustees and management realized that rates were not sufficient to properly meet current our operating costs (as we sometimes experienced operating shortfalls) let alone provide for replacement and improvement projects. Historically, the rates were held too low for too long, forcing us to catch-up, both on rates and projects, consequently the funds available for projects are nowhere near where they need to be.

Beginning in 2007 rates were increased by about 10% each year for three years. This increase enabled us to complete some much needed upgrades to mains and buildings, and to have the capital to incur and repay long-term debt on our loan for the aerators, and to begin building a capital base.