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Turbidity main culprit for East Sooke water woes

The ultraviolet treatment method needs clear water to kill bacteria
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Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director Mike Hicks said sometimes you need to boil water. (File - Sooke News Mirror)

Ever wondered why the drinking water in parts of East Sooke must be boiled regularly?

It seems to occur a couple of times a year that a boil water advisory comes out for the portion of East Sooke connected on the Wilderness Mountain Water System – about 75 homes. The water comes from the Wilfred reservoir on Mount Matheson and is treated with filters, chloramine and UV technology in the Wilderness Mountain treatment plant.

As opposed to well water, the thing about surface water is that it’s more likely to get cloudy and full of sediment, said Matt McCrank, a water infrastructure manager at the Capital Regional District (CRD).

And ultraviolet light only really works reliably when the water is clear, so when turbidity levels rise – that’s the scientific word for murky – they can’t be sure all the bacteria gets killed.

McCrank said the CRD is looking at other treatments but couldn’t promise a schedule for when those East Sooke residents might hear about options. The cost might be prohibitive since small systems aren’t necessarily subsidized by the CRD, and a capital project for that system isn’t on the five-year budget.

READ MORE: Boil water advisory initiated in Port Renfrew

READ MORE: Boil water advisory issued in East Sooke

The CRD plans to hire an engineering consultant to undertake a water source protection plan that will look at what could be done at the Wilfred reservoir lake to improve quality. That CRD report will be started in 2021, but the consultants have not yet been hired.

The Wilderness Mountain water treatment system is one of two small water treatment distribution systems on southern Vancouver Island that the CRD manages. (Three big ones cover Greater Victoria, and there are 10 small systems on the southern Gulf Islands.)

Port Renfrew has the other small system that draws water from a deep well. It rarely requires a boil water advisory, though one did happen May 19 when a routine test revealed some indicator bacteria.

Juan de Fuca’s electoral area director Mike Hicks says it’s not the end of the world to boil your water sometimes.

“Shit happens. Well, that’s not the right phrase to use, but something to that effect,” he said. “Sometimes mother nature throws some bacteria or something in there, and you’ve got to boil the water.”


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