The Cobble Hill Improvement District has offered to pay to monitor four water-testing wells on Fisher Road.
Spokesman Jens Liebgott said that by using the CHID’s staff technician, who is a fully licensed and qualified water technician, the monitoring costs could be kept as low as $750 per test, twice a year.
Staff at the Cowichan Valley Regional District, which own the wells, tabled a report in May that recommended that annual sampling and analysis of the four wells be conducted, at an estimated cost of up to $24,000.
The district’s regional services committee sent the report back to staff for more information.
Liebgott said the test wells were drilled at the expense of the taxpayers, at a cost of more than $100,000, and are meant to be regularly tested.
But he said the CVRD has indicated that the district can’t afford it, even though the district is now receiving $750,000 a year to deal with water issues after residents approved a new water protection function last fall.
“We can safely test the wells for only $750 and are ready to do so to make sure we can continue to provide safe water in the future,” Liebgott said.
The Cobble Hill aquifer adjacent to Fisher Road provides ground water to almost 15,000 residences in the area.
The aquifer is a known location of elevated nitrate concentrations in groundwater largely as a result of land-use activities, such as a greenhouse which is now closed, and composting operations that have operated there for years.
As the CVRD has limited jurisdiction and budget to effectively investigate groundwater quality concerns, in 2017, after concerns were raised by local residents, the ministry formed the Cobble Hill Aquifer Interagency Task Group, consisting of officials from several government ministries and Island Health, to take a collaborative approach to evaluate the risk to groundwater users in the Fisher Road area.
The task group commissioned Western Water Associates Ltd. to conduct a study of the groundwater in the area and make recommendations.
Western Water concluded that the nitrate concentrations in the water detected in the Fisher Road area most likely result from past surface activities that have since either ended, like the greenhouse, or have been modified to be more environmentally friendly.
However, Western Water’s contention that the current risk to groundwater users in the Fisher Road area has been determined to be low was questioned by many water users in the area, including Mike Wilson, the CVRD’s director for Cobble Hill.
Wilson has asked the CVRD to consider spending $75,000 a year for five years for extensive monitoring and analysis of the water.
CVRD chairman Ian Morrison said the district is aware the water issues around the aquifer are a concern for a lot of people, including the CVRD itself.
But he said the matter has been referred back to staff for more information, so it’s not appropriate that he comment on the offer by the Cobble Hill Improvement District until staff table another report with all the required technical data.
“We want to hear back from staff first and than all the ideas and proposals will be considered and debated at that time,” he said.