Robertson islanders want better water supply

  • Feb. 5, 2010 7:00 p.m.

Robertson Island residents want a better water supply – for fire protection and other water needs. A delegation of four residents came to the Feb. 1 Queen Charlotte council meeting to state their case. Dr. Tracy Morton, who along with his wife and two children, occupies one of the eight lots on the 40- acre island just offshore of QC, said a one-inch PVC hose supplies the island now. It runs in a trench from Spruce Point and then the pipe extends ¾ of the way down the island. This means six lots receive water, but two do not. Not only that, but the pipe is so small that the water needs of those being served is not met in high load times. But the most worrisome problem for the residents is that the water supply is completely inadequate for fire protection needs. Dr. Morton said the QC fire department came to the islands to discuss the issue recently and the result of that meeting was that every resident was supplied with a fire extinguisher. Robertson Island resident Marvin Boyd also joined the fire department so the residents would have some expertise. But residents do not believe this is enough. They believe the village, according to a local area water supply and distribution system service bylaw passed in 2008, has a responsibility to provide better water services as Robertson Island is clearly part of the established water supply area. “There may be an obligation by the bylaw to see if our system meets the needs of the bylaw,” said Dr. Morton. Dr. Morton said initial discussions with village staff began last year and now the residents are bringing the matter to council. Most residents pay for water utilities and all of them pay taxes to cover fire protection, he said. But the fire department has made it clear that right now, it would be a challenge to put out a fire without hydrants on the island. Fire chief Larry Duke also attended the Feb. 1 council meeting. He said they are working on a interim plan for the islands. He intends to set up a kiosk with some equipment like hoses and pumps, to minimize the apparatus that has to be brought over in the event of a fire. Councillors had some questions. Gladys Noddin asked what the Department of Fisheries thought of the plan. DFO’s Nathan Ferguson was at the meeting and he said there is the potential to lay a water main from Charlotte Tire to the island without a major impact. He didn’t think the project would need an environmental assessment if carried out in that area. New chief administrative officer Bill Beamish said it’s not uncommon for a municipality to do an extension to their water service, but the village would have to look at getting a right of way on the island. “We’d be taking some land to do that,” he said. He said this would not be an inexpensive system, but he acknowledged that residents wanted the system for good and valuable reasons. Councillor Greg Martin said cost sharing for potable water makes sense, but he thinks fire protection is a separate issue. “I think it is imperative to provide fire protection,” he said. He also noted he lives outside of the water system zone with no nearby hydrant. Mr. Duke said the Fire Department has two trucks and one is used as a tanker in the event of a fire outside the area served by hydrants. Mayor Carol Kulesha said there are different levels of fire protection in the community already, as some who are up steep, windy roads would also be at a disadvantage if the fire truck couldn’t make it. Ben Greenough of the public works department said fire hydrants are well-distributed through out the rest of Queen Charlotte. The residents noted that they had looked at other options, like salt water pumps or storage tanks, but a water main always turned out to be the best option. Council thanked the delegation. Mayor Kulesha said the next step would be to gather more information and costs for this possibility before the village would make any decisions. “It might come down to costs,” said Mr. Beamish. He said the village needs to determine how much residents can pay, as well as how much the municipality can pay and how much in grants might be available.