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Days numbered for Robson water warning

Robson pumphouse ((mid-right) and water tank (upper left) high in the hills near the Pass Creek Falls. - Jim Sinclair
Robson pumphouse ((mid-right) and water tank (upper left) high in the hills near the Pass Creek Falls.
— image credit: Jim Sinclair

There are no issues put to rest like long-standing issues.

A boil water advisory has existed in Robson since 1997 due to bacterial contamination, and to say residents find it tedious would be an understatement.

Work has continued toward correcting the situation in Castlegar's western neighbour, and in the past couple of years there have been several optimistic announcements that the advisory would soon be a memory.

It's little wonder that locals would greet such news with such enthusiasm – the boil water sign at the gateway to the community stands ominously… adding a sort of stigma that is, and will continue to be tough to shake.

Carol Zimmerman, Administrator with the Robson Raspberry Improvement District (RRID) knows the related history and the frustrations better than most. Zimmerman has learned to respond very carefully when asked for an estimate of when things will finally be put right. Past statements have been made, and deadlines have come and gone. It was with such a preface that Zimmerman spoke with the Castlegar News on June 3.

"There have been several delays for several different reasons," she began from her office on Broadwater Road.

"I've been told they're to be expected, especially with a project of this size. Everyone's working real hard to get it up and running. The commissioning has been done at the plant. The operators have been trained and have run the plant, minus the chlorine, a few times."

A hardware failure has been the latest gremlin to beset the system, according to Zimmerman… a cracked valve which is scheduled for replacement this Saturday, June 7. Robson residents take note, by the way, water will be shut off on that day.

The whole story behind the water purity question in Robson is quite complex… such that Zimmerman said she finds it a challenge to explain it to someone who is not well versed in the technical jargon.

"We're replacing a cracked valve," she simplified. "They ran the system for 24 hours last weekend. There are certain things they have to comply with, through health, as well. The tank can only sit empty for so long before it has to be (treated) again with chlorine, etc."

That got Zimmerman back to the point that it's difficult to provide a date of when the system will be complete.

She did, however, suggest that if all goes as hoped, the process could be ready for sampling and testing protocols to be carried out by Interior Health by July.

Gord Zaitsoff is the RDCK Regional Director for Rural Area "J," and is very familiar with every phase of the ongoing process involving Robson water. Like many, he'll be pleased and relieved to put the matter in the rear view mirror.

"There has been some frustration among the trustees," he stated on June 3, "but I think we're in the closing segment of this whole thing."

There are already signs that a new lease on life is about to become prevalent in Robson, developmentally speaking as well.

"I'm starting to see people putting in applications for subdivision in Robson, which means some of the vacant lands that haven't been able to be subdivided because of lack of potable water, will be developed. We've seen that happen in Ootischenia, which is just booming."

Zaitsoff identified federal gas tax funds, in the neighbourhood of $200,000, as instrumental in having much of the important infrastructure work done.

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