Letter: water rate increases hurting users

From reader Chris Campagnaro

The South Slocan water system is one of a number of small water systems owned and operated by the Regional District of Central Kootenay.

A new water treatment plant was installed in South Slocan in July 2010. A great deal of grant money was raised for this project, as much as $900,000, all or most of it allocated to the new treatment plant and nothing invested in upgrading the ageing 1950s vintage distribution system.

We moved to this community after the upgrades were completed in 2012 and became one of just 51 users on this water system. We just got our 2019 water bill. After several substantial annual increases in the past few years (15 to 40 per cent), it’s just been raised yet again by an additional 28 per cent to $1,642 per year.

The bad news continued. A letter with the bill warned our rates will grow to a staggering $3,100 per year to cover replacement of the distribution system. To put this into perspective, our first bill in 2012 was $471 per year. RDCK plans to increase our rate 6.5 times from our original cost to $3,100 per year or $258 per month.

Someone planned poorly (or failed to plan at all) this expensive state-of-the-art treatment plant upgrade for South Slocan with only 51 paying users and an ageing distribution system. This treatment plant is very expensive to maintain under RDCK operation. Was the right treatment plant chosen in the first place for the number of users on the system?

The same plant serves communities with more than twice as many connections. Could less money have been spent on the plant, and some invested in upgrading the distribution system? They have chained us to a financially unsustainable water system.

Now 51 system users are paying dearly out of their own pockets for mistakes made by the local government, for lack of planning foresight during the upgrade. We are simple working-class folks out here, some seniors, some young families raising children, all of us on fixed budgets. This is really hurting us.

It’s pricing us out of living here and drastically affecting our property resale value, which for most of us is a significant part of our retirement planning.

Chris Campagnaro

South Slocan

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