Provincial Drinking Water Standard Sought for Camps

The WSCA is seeking a provincial drinking water standard for silviculture camps as part of the implementation of the B.C. Drinking Water Protection Act enacted in 2003.

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Last the month the association met with the province’s Drinking Water Leadership Council as part of a consultation process to create practical drinking water guidelines for transient silviculture camps. Drinking water provision in silviculture camps has become urgent for contractors as there appear to be differences as to how the requirements of the Act are interpreted by the province’s regional health authorities and their drinking water officers.

There are also concerns as to whether some of the Act’s expectations are practical and achievable in the rudimentary settings of forestry work camps. All of this is set against a broad public initiative to improve drinking water provision at all levels following recent waterworks catastrophes and the general decline of drinking water quality in many communities across the country.

Speaking to the Council, a group that comprises ministry of health and regional health authority representatives, the WSCA stated the silviculture industry was not seeking any sort of exemption from providing safe water in work camps. But because of the transitory nature of the business it was not possible to comply to the letter regarding the Act’s provisions, particularly around testing routines, water system certifications and washing water standards. The WSCA told the Council that a rigid interpretation of the regulations would lead to unhealthy water rationing in camps, the risk of regularly hauling water on dangerous forestry roads and an increase in general avoidance of the rules by contractors.

Rather than tax each regional health authority’s resources trying to enforce difficult rules on an industry moving through the remoter parts of the province the WSCA suggested the Council and the industry collaborate to meet the intent of Act.

The WSCA identified a number of areas of concern including water testing and water system permitting requirements. Water tests often produced results after camps have pulled up stakes and moved to a new location. Water sytem permitting for each changing site is impractical when camps are moving frequently.

The WSCA also stated that provincial drinking water guidelines for silviculture camps are needed since contractors operate and bid on contracts across the whole province and require predictable and consistent water provision standards from the various regional health authorities.