Thursday, October 13, 2011 – 11:53 AM
Residents in Chemainus will have to get their drinking water from a local creek this year instead of the pump house because of an ongoing case surrounding constitutional rights of the Halalt First Nation.
The district and province of British Columbia were asking the Court of Appeal to suspend a decision made in July by the B.C. Supreme Court, when it ruled the province hadn’t properly consulted the Halalt on using groundwater in the area. Pending an outcome of the appeal, North Cowichan wanted to use the pump station from Oct. 15 to June 15 during months when high rains can lead to muddy waters in nearby creeks.
Mayor Tom Walker is worried that without being able to use the Chemainus wells, residents will be faced with turbid water that will require them to treat it by boiling or other means.
“If we do not go to the ground water or the well water starting on the 15th when we get some severe rain, winter storms on the coast here this coming winter, we’ll probably be again in the boil water advisory and people will have dirty-looking drinking water.”
The lawyer for the Halalt First Nation, Bill Andrews, said the court’s ruling found the province should have included the group in key decisions on water use.
“Where the Halalt have a claim of ownership of groundwater, for example, the province was required to consult them,” he explained. “While they had lots of meetings, the court found when important decisions were being made, Halalt was left out of the loop.”
For example, he said the province didn’t include the Halalt in a monitoring program aimed at assessing how the pump station in Chemainus may be affecting the river.
Andrews believes North Cowichan and the province’s appeal on using the Chemainus wells will likely proceed in the first part of 2012. Meanwhile, residents will be getting their drinking water from Banon Creek.