Saturday, January 30, 2016

SAC's Tenure Approaching Wind-up

It won't be long now.

The Stakeholders' Advisory Committee has--since October 2015--met monthly at RDNO to deliberate Options 1 through 9 of the 2012 Master Water Plan since the $70 million borrowing referendum failed 11 months earlier.

The lack of MWP project funding brought to the fore a huge obstacle:  the obvious bias by consultants, bureaucrats and long-time elected officials to protect the Duteau Water Treatment Plant itself.  Frequently accused by the public of throwing good money after bad by promoting a plant whose source waters are virtually untreatable due to their poor quality--not to mention the likelihood of being the first source to be severely affected by climate change--officials have dug in their heels.
Officials are now up to their knees!

But when so much of Duteau's finished product is used for irrigating farmlands--lands and crops whose proprietors refuse to contribute more, not only to utility infrastructure but also to contribute towards continually increasing costs of providing that water--something's gotta give!

Officials have become so hard-wired in protecting Sacred Duteau that they--almost to a person--have blatantly disregarded various inaccuracies, indeed contradictions, in technical memoranda that created the 2012 version of the plan after the 2002 Master Water Plan, which proposed twinning of waterlines, was abandoned. 

No matter, believes this more-than-casual observer of the review process.

Citizens for Changes to the Master Water Plan's ~1,000 petition signatures initiated the plan's review, albeit not by the desired independent professional consultant , and today up to 18 members of the public continue their deliberations on what today are the five-year-old plan's shortcomings.

As the SAC review nears its conclusion, sparse media coverage from the area's lone print publication occasionally produced a few tasty bites that underscore public loathing and will prove to be the plan's fatal flaw, most recently:

(on agricultural fees) "That's a real hot-button issue
but we hear from residential customers
 that they don't like subsidizing agriculture" ... 
"We can all agree that it's not working."  GVAC Chair Cunningham

And we can all agree that the majority of today's elected officials stated they themselves would--during the campaign--vote against the borrowing referendum!

The one good thing about bureaucratic manipulation of data--outright lies as some folks called it--is that truth will prevail.
Especially among thinking people.

Here's a sampling of what SAC members have learned about Duteau Creek Water Treatment Plant (DCWTP), Mission Hill Water Treatment Plant (MHWTP) and the MWP 2012 generally:
  • During winter, when agriculture isn't irrigating, the cost to treat source waters at DCWTP is $363 per megalitre, compared to MHWTP's $83!  Four hundred and thirty-seven percent the treatment costs of MHWTP!
  • DCWTP's operating costs are at least $1.5 million annually.  That would pay the borrowing cost of over $21 million at current interest rates!  All without increasing GVW's current budget if total separation occurred.  To decrease the unacceptable costs, the preferable option is to complete the separation of agriculture and domestic lines (twinning), which in itself would achieve the presently unattainable goal of knowing the actual costs of operating agricultural lines.  
  • More than 80 per cent of DCWTP's chlorinated--and MWP's plan to filter--water is applied to farmlands and crops!
  • Interior Health is willing to negotiate deferral of water treatment!  All it takes is a comprehensive plan to achieve legislated quality.  To that end, MHWTP must first provide filtered water to domestic customers, extending the IH deferral timeline.  Using water from the Aberdeen Plateau--in summer rife with bureaucratically-unchallenged mud-boggers and illegal campers--as well as the uncontrollable risk of wildfires--plus allowed public use by fishers and hunters as well as industrial users doesn't bode well for easily decontaminated source waters.
  • You are blessed with lots of water" (consultant) flies in the face of the Okanagan Basin Water Board's nationally-exposed insult that Okanagan residents use twice the daily average of others in Canada!  OBWB included agricultural consumption whereas the per capita usage comparison used only Canada's urban results.  And that water is so scarce in this "only desert in Canada".  We have lots of water!
  • DCWTP's upland source waters are more susceptible to depletion from climate change than valley basin lakes.  Source security should be the prime driver of any water plan, and MWP's statement of reduced risk by having two sources--from earthquake damage, for example--doesn't hold water.  One large earthquake would affect the distribution pipes of both sources.  Okanagan Lake is the source of the North Okanagan's long-term domestic water supply as population growth occurs.  Also, Kalamalka Lake's location in the valley bottom supports continued domestic use.  All while agricultural demand is not expected to increase. 
  • Invasive mussels threat:  the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee has already approved--and budgeted for--moving the Kal Lake water intake, including an additional pipe to eliminate the potential mussel infestation by using chlorine.
  • A public-driven environmental desire to augment water for fish flows supports diverting water via the combination of Deer and Coldstream Creeks versus using it as irrigation water upstream.
  • DCWTP's disinfection byproducts regularly--and alarmingly--exceed by almost 40 per cent those at MHWTP.  Trihalomethanes, Haloacetic Acids (among others) are considered carcinogenic.  Haloacetic acids are used as a skin peel by the cosmetic industry.  The poor quality of Duteau's source waters on the Aberdeen Plateau, simply stated, equate to the necessity of having to throw more and more chemicals at it, just to bring the finished product to within the acceptable levels of the MHWTP.  And consider the risk to human health from aluminum (utilized as a flocculating agent at DCWTP).  Apart from the perceived connection to Alzheimer's Disease, the use of aluminum sulphate produces dangerous hydrogen sulphide gas in sewer systems.
  • Bureaucracy's desire to offer all domestic customers the same quality of water is severely impeded by having two sources, one of which is so inconsistent and incompatible, no matter how much "blending" is conducted.   The fact remains that the Aberdeen Plateau's waters are perfect for irrigation use...without treatment!


Bureaucracy is hoping SAC members haven't read her books.

"SAC members are intelligent and fully committed to the responsibility inherent to their review," says Kia, adding "bureaucrats and politicians are cautioned against discounting SAC recommendations."

It could signal the end of THEIR tenure.

Campaigner Carole Cross, 59, died from a rare and aggressive form of Alzheimer’s and her brain was found to contain higher than usual levels of aluminum.
At the time, the West Somerset coroner said she had been exposed to "an excessive amount" of aluminum in the contaminated water.  Source article here.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Little Old Ladies Pay for GVW Malfeasance

Yup, they do.
And yup, GVW did produce a 2012 Master Water Plan that can only be described as a wrongdoing.

A sweet little old lady, approaching 93 years of age, gave me her Vernon water invoices for the last two quarters.  

During the 3-month period
 July 1st to September 30th, 2015,
 she consumed 15.5 m3 water.
  She paid $7.276774 per cubic metre!

During the 3-month period
 October 1st to December 31st, 2015,
 she consumed 14.0 m3 water.
 She paid $7.94142 per cubic metre!

Her average water cost for that 6 month period was $7.59 a cubic metre.

Then add her sewer infrastructure base fee of $50.20 to each quarterly invoice and the costs per cubic metre spiral to $10.515 and $11.527 respectively.

GVW's malfeasance?

  • (1)  Mothballing Master Water Plan 2002 which called for agricultural and domestic line separation (line twinning).
  • (2)  Having every resident pay--ad infinitum--for chlorinated water to be applied to area farmlands.
  •  (3)  Rejecting the public demand for agriculture to pay more!

And, when irrigation is turned off during the 6+ months of winter:

Duteau Creek Water Treatment costs are $363 per megalitre!

Mission Hill Water Treatment costs are       $83 per megalitre!

I've never before heard a sweet little old lady swear (albeit a mild oath).

"A little louder," offers Kia.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Throwing Fairbairn Into The Fray...

Poor Board Chair Fairbairn at RDNO.
Now he's being tossed into the water fray.

Wonder if anyone will actually ask "so why didn't they do it in the first place?" after reading this:

from Bob Spiers' Vernonblog here.

Water Testing Pilot Project Applied For

Posted on 1/25/2016 by Ron Manz 107.5 KISSFM
The Regional District North Okanagan is applying to the BC Government for a $10-thousand dollar grant for a water treatment testing pilot project. The pilot would look at alternative methods of treating water at the Duteau Creek Water Treatment plant. Board Chair Rick Fairbairn says if successful, it could mean some significant savings for water customers. "Look at some additional methods to pretreat the water and if that's successful we would be in a position to possibly delay or defer parts of the filtration system that has been proposed by Interior Health." Fairbairn says they will supplement the total cost of the pilot project out of reserve funds. "Maybe instead of having to put a filtration plant in, it will give us an opportunity to approach it from another angle that we can achieve the results without a filtration plant or at least reduce the costs." "The Regional District will supplement some of the costs out of the reserves to proceed. This is a grant to get the ball rolling. We all have good intentions but it is difficult to put a termination date on, because it has to go through the approval process so it is going to take some time." Interior Health is asking that the Regional District install a $30-million dollar filtration plant to bring water quality up to its preferred standard.

Lemme guess.
It'll "take some time" -- likely until after the Stakeholders' Advisory Committee has been dismantled.

"...we would be in a position to possibly delay or defer parts of the filtration system that has been proposed by Interior Health."
"Possibly delay?"  "or defer parts of the filtration system?"  "...has been proposed by Interior Health?"

Wow...that's a lot of ifs
Defer parts.

Maybe board chair Fairbairn needs a gentle nudge to remind him that "...filtration system that has been proposed by Interior Health"...isn't quite correct.
It's not proposed by IH.

The responsibility rests with Greater Vernon Water and their consultants to design a system that fully meets the 4-3-2-1-0 disinfection objectives.  Interior Health doesn't care how we do it, but GVW had recently suggested that filtration is the only way to achieve it.  

At least that's what the SAC committee heard during their deliberations on the Master Water Plan.

Now, poof, suddenly, air scrubbing is a possibility.
Especially since the talk around the town is to scrap the Duteau treatment plant altogether, instead of continuing to throw good money after bad.

That's not the only water issue people are concerned or there.
Following the horrendous betrayal of residents in Flint Michigan, there's even more in the news now:  about lead in people's home plumbing.

"Has anybody asked GVW if they have asbestos/concrete pipes?" intones Kia.

One thing at a time please...

Monday, January 25, 2016

Simon Says

This letter to the Morning Star editor appeared on Sunday, January 24th:

All together now...repeat after Simon:

"Water system works for all:

In the wee hours of Boxing Day morning, the Mission Hill water treatment plant experienced a major equipment malfunction, effectively shutting down the plant.

How many Vernon and Coldstream residents had their holidays with their families disrupted by this event?  Not one.

This is because we are lucky enough to have multiple sources for our water.  Operators were able to switch to the Duteau Creek supply without missing a beat.

The problem at Mission Hill was that an equipment failure prevented the pumps from bringing water up from Kal Lake to the plant.  The Duteau system transports water by gravity.  Because we have the ability to switch supplies, we don't have to pay huge bills for emergency services to fix the power to the Mission Hill plant.

Imagine the difficulty and cost of getting a plumber at 1 a.m. on Boxing Day?  Getting the plant up and running can happen in a thoughtful, cost-saving manner.  Another benefit to the Duteau system is that the water is quite soft which has many benefits in your home.  The Duteau Creek water system is also not susceptible to the threat from invasive mussels.

A local group that is getting a lot of ink in the paper would like to mothball the five-year-old Duteau plant that we just spent $20 million on in order to have a single source from Okanagan Lake.  This is the lowest possible source so it would require significant mechanical systems and uninterrupted power to push all that water up to the residents.  As well as being very costly, sole sourcing from Okanagan Lake would be very susceptible to a mussel problem if that were to occur.  We do not have water rights on Okanagan Lake and obtaining them now would put us at the bottom of the list of water priorities.  All other water rights would have to be honoured before ours.

I hope that when the decisions are made to move forward with an agreed upon master water plan, that it retains multiple sources that minimize our risk of disruption by power/mechanical outages as well as natural threats."   Steve Simon

"So what does Kelowna do?" asks Kia, then replying to the question:  "they had better equipment--and likely better electricians--in the first place."

Perhaps that's true.

Seems Mr. Simon has made the decision to risk his family's safety from inordinately (and unacceptably) high levels at Duteau of Trihalomethane and Haloacetic disinfection byproducts by liking the softer uneducated and very stupid trade-off!    He also doesn't care that it costs so much more to run the Duteau plant--especially during winter--when irrigation is shut off.   So does he still think "we don't have to pay huge bills?"  What nonsense!   He appears to prefer the year-round huge water consumption and base rate costs are OK!

And a "local group getting a lot of ink in the paper?"  The Morning Star newspaper did the general public--and those ~1,000 people who signed their water petition--a disservice, as they wouldn't even print the most recent Press Release from Citizens for Changes to the Master Water Plan.

Oh...and by the way, Okanagan Lake is THE consultants' and politicians' and bureaucrats' choice for long-term supply to a growing North Okanagan population.  Seems Mr. Simon would rather wait another 20 years to apply for an OL water license--when in fact GVW has already done so...they're simply not keen to mothball Duteau because it would admit what everyone else now knows...that it was a $29 million dollar waste to build it when over 80 per cent of its treated water in summer goes onto farm crops (with domestic customers paying--because agriculture rates are far too low!).

Duteau should never have been built in the first place!
Irrigation and domestic lines should have been separated--waterline twinning--as the original Master Water Plan 2002 recommended.

Simple Simon.
Believing what his political/bureaucratic friend tells him.
You're being fooled Mr. Simon!

"Good that Simon didn't pursue the field of forensics," adds Kia.

Cold cases would never be solved if he had.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

"Cooperation" versus "Agreement"

A difference exists between the two definitions.
Splitting hairs, it could be said, but with consequences. 

Today's Morning Star story "Co-operation key for RDNO" in which Chair Rick Fairbairn is quoted as saying "...shows a spirit of cooperation among the partners" puts yet another layer over the veil of transparency in this area's governance.

It also masks with misinformation (to residents) the Board's plans following the November 2014 failure of the $70 million borrowing referendum for the Master Water Plan.

First, the definitions:
cooperation:  "assistance, especially by ready compliance with requests".
agreement:  "the absence of incompatibility between two things; consistency".

Three significant events have occurred since the referendum failure:
  • local election candidates' waffling on referendum support:  (first in support, then not--as the election loomed--then following the election--back toeing the line).  Seems almost to a person, candidates waffled more on whom to serve--the public, or their peers--rather than holding an educated and intelligent opinion on a topic. 
  • outspoken Master Water Plan critic Gyula Kiss was--for years--an island at GVAC.  His divergent opinions were barely tolerated by peers.  That "island" position equated to Kiss never having a seconder for motions he submitted.  Until Vernon councillor Bob Spiers--decidedly a free-thinker--saw the merits of Kiss' analytical and intelligent motions--and seconded them.  They were each serving their constituents first and foremost.  There were now two islands, with seconded motions now legitimized and recorded in minutes, despite a lack of additional support.   The situation now was obviously intolerable to the pack around the table.  In short order Coldstream Mayor Garlick tossed Gyula Kiss from GVAC, replacing him with Doug Dirk as director (all under the  pretense/guise of a voting terms of reference that excluded an "alternate" committee member).  The consequence?  GVAC is once again back to "the absence of incompatibility".  Meaning: agreement.  And partly--ready compliance with requests--to agree.  Thinking people will equate the mayor's action to one of betraying his constituents and his councillor.
  • Citizens for Changes to the Master Water Plan, a grassroots group promoting change to water rates via consideration of an alternative water source in the North Okanagan, formed and quickly received ~1,000 signatures on their petition.  This led to GVAC denying CCMWP's request for an independent professional review of the MWP--however a volunteer Stakeholders' Advisory Committee of area water users was decided on by GVAC, with monthly meetings that began in October of 2015.  Meetings were conducted by GVW bureaucrats, with Jim Garlick and Juliette Cunningham heading the discussion table as volunteers listened to MWP consultants summarizing the ~1,000 pages of technical memoranda.  This was called a peer review -- an "evaluation of scientific, academic, or professional work by others working in the same field."  (Ahem!)  The group, the Morning Star story said, "will also continue to meet in 2016 to discuss the future of Greater Vernon's water utility..."
To discuss the future of Greater Vernon's water utility?

"Cool," says Kia, "the utility's future is thrown into the mix."

Mayor Garlick, the cooperator...the person that agrees, the betrayer.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

From the Mayor's December newsletter

Coldstream's 12-page newsletter included the following from Mayor Garlick.

(ignore the last five words).

As the newsletter was issued mid-December, Mayor Garlick can be excused for omitting his January strategy to replace Councillor Gyula Kiss as director on GVAC with Councillor Doug Dirk.

Nevertheless, Mayor Garlick's medal, congratulating him on his thinly-veiled betrayal, is likely still being struck in the bureaucratic forge at GVW by some of the GVAC directors.

"...backstabber," intones Kia.


Annual Water Costs

The numbers are done, including comparisons.

This property has 3 water meters:  Residence, Clubhouse and Golf course irrigation.  Average annual costs for each cubic metre of water have been included, as well as percentage of allocation used.

Weird ... but cost per cubic metre clubhouse numbers for 2015 vs 2014 were double-checked.

Nominated for the category of "Who Pays More Towards the Ag Water Subsidy?" are:
  • Domestic Users
  • Commercial Users

"And the Oscar goes to...Commercial," says Kia.

The hands down winner is Commercial.
Yes, of course, base rates were included!
Because base rates are charged on water invoices too, not just consumption!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Smart Governance at Lake Country

Today's "Growth Eases Lake Country Taxes" story in the Morning Star is an all around good news story.
The area's growth -- the fastest in the province -- is a boon to council projects.

Mayor James Baker and his council agree "Why would we go for a property tax increase (originally proposed to be 2.85 per cent) when we can do what we need to do with what we have?"  And "there are more (private) assets and more people paying."   Development cost charges will cover it instead.

So what makes Lake Country's Mayor and council smart?

Because they're levying a parcel tax of $125 to each household to pay for Transportation for Tomorrow projects.

That makes them smart?

The clincher is that with 5,000 parcels in Lake Country, the parcel tax treats all properties equally, including agriculture.

There ya go...there's the smart part.

"Unlike GVW here where agriculture pays bugger all," says Kia, adding "which leads to the public eventually demanding change."


Smart...all around us.

Oops! Forgot Kathleen Cameron's letter to editor

Here is Kathleen Cameron's letter to the Morning Star editor:

" the Morning Star I read with interest that GVAC is considering yet another 2% increase to our already exorbitant water rates next year.

No doubt this will be applied to the base rate so that we have no choice but to pay it. The excuse this time is “inflation”. I wonder what the excuse will be for 2017?

Then a couple of days later, it was reported that RDNO was considering an $8 per quarter charge for “changing meters” for each residence. that is another $32 per year per household. Add those 2 increases together, and that is a 6% increase next year. When is it going to stop?

The citizens of Greater Vernon are being held hostage in a “catch-22” scheme with our water rates. The base and water rates go up each year, so people use less water in a misguided attempt to keep their bills reasonable. July and August come, and RDNO says- “conserve water!” and as good citizens we use even less, even though it is totally unnecessary, because we have lots of water here.

RDNO then counts it’s revenue after the 3rd quarter and says “Wait! We didn’t make enough money to service the debt the Duteau Creek Water Treatment Plant has given us. We need to raise the rate again! “

Citizens of Vernon and Coldstream- do you not see the ongoing problem here?

This nonsense and mismanagement will continue until the citizens speak up and let GVAC and RDNO know we aren’t going to take it anymore.
Our elected officials- mayors, councillors and members of the GVAC have got to start paying attention to the members of the public who voted them into office, and working for our good.

Please- write letters to the Morning Star, Mayor Mund, Mayor Garlick, the councillors of Coldstream and Vernon and the chair and co-chair of GVAC, Juliette Cunningham and Jim Garlick, (and anyone else you can think of!) and let them know you are not pleased with these totally unnecessary increases.

We do have options for cheaper water sources than Duteau Creek, and should be developing them instead of pouring more money down the drain. Until the people speak up and complain nothing is going to change."

"Options...yes, SAC has nine," says Kia.

Actually, 10.