Uranium problem studied

The deadline has been extended to Feb. 19 for a request for proposals for removing uranium from the water supply at Faulder.

The deadline has been extended to Feb. 19 for a request for proposals for removing uranium from the water supply at Faulder north of Summerland.

Six years after Interior Health issued a warning over the uranium content in Faulder’s water, the regional district is still figuring out the most cost-effective solution to the problem.

Last month the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen issued a request for proposals from companies interested in supplying the equipment necessary to remove uranium from the water. Doug French, the RDOS public works manger, said the RFP was issued “just to see what’s on the market” and at what price.

He’s also wrestling with the issue of permanent supply. The level of the Meadow Valley aquifer, from which about 80 homes in Faulder are supplied, dropped dramatically in 2010 and forced the RDOS to look at other options. The best alternative was a $2-million pipeline that would have connected the community to the Summerland municipal supply, but it was ruled out as too costly.

The Meadow Valley aquifer recharged in 2011 and removed some of the urgency from the situation, and the RDOS is still trying to decide whether it should keep its current well, drill a new one, or buy one that’s already in production.

French said he’d prefer to use the existing well, but its ongoing ability to supply the area remains “largely a great unknown.”

On the other hand, “If I drop a new well into that aquifer, I’m still going to get uranium. So I’ll still have the problem of getting it out.”

He’s hoping the way forward will be made clearer by the estimated costs for uranium treatment put forward by vendors who respond to the RFP, which originally was to close Feb. 5 but has been extended to Feb. 19.

Uranium content only became an issue in 2007 when Interior Health issued a water-quality advisory that followed from Health Canada’s decision to decrease the acceptable uranium concentration in drinking water from 0.1 milligrams per litre to 0.02. Faulder’s water averages 0.028 mg/l, according to the RFP.

Michael Brydon, the RDOS director for the area, said his constituents have been “extremely patient.”

“There’s only 80 houses on that system and we’re looking at some very big numbers, so we have to move very carefully. We just can’t afford to do something and have a huge budget overrun,” he explained.

“With this project we’ve sort of been waiting to see how the aquifer reacts, because using the existing aquifer is by far the cheaper alternative. But on the other hand, (the level) fluctuates so wildly we’re trying to collect some data and the longer (it’s collected) the better.”

There was up to $1 million in grant money for the project, Brydon said, although the total available now will depend on what systems the RDOS selects.

He confirmed, though, that there’s still no timeline to sink the Faulder water issue for good.

“It’s moving so slowly, I can’t give you an answer,” Brydon said. “We have to get moving on this this year though, because the grants do have deadlines.”