VICTORIA, B.C. — Today the Auditor General of B.C. released her report The Protection of Drinking Water: An Independent Audit. The report finds that the two bodies responsible for safeguarding drinking water, the Ministry of Health and the Provincial Health Officer, are not taking the necessary steps to protect British Columbians’ drinking water.
“The findings of today’s report reiterate what communities across the province have been saying for years: we are not doing enough to safeguard drinking water in B.C.,” said Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley. “The Provincial Health Officer lacks support resources and clear data; subsequently they have only completed four of the required annual reports since 2002. The recommendations of these reports have seen limited to no progress.
“It is concerning that the only significant water issue to be reported to the Minister of Health has been the crisis in Shawnigan. This is despite significant impediments to safe drinking water in Hullcar, Peachland, Ymir, and the Comox Valley, to name a few.”
Just last month the Ministry of Environment approved a closure plan for the contaminated soil landfill above Shawnigan Lake, allowing a significant and avoidable risk to remain for the 12,000 people who rely on drinking water from this watershed.
“When it comes to watersheds, the province and governmental agencies are failing to fulfill their responsibilities,” continued Furstenau. “In an era of climate change, protecting water becomes even more important. A separate risk assessment report published last week found that B.C. is at high risk of both seasonal and long-term water shortages, with potentially catastrophic impacts.
“As the Auditor General highlighted today, we need to take action to protect drinking water immediately. I urge the provincial government to enact all of the recommendations with expediency. Communities across the province are experiencing the impacts of climate change and industrial activity on their water sources. This is especially true of small, rural, and Indigenous communities.
“There are possible solutions: the Water Sustainability Act, for instance, offers the opportunity for local communities to play a larger role in ensuring their water resources are managed sustainably.
“At the bare minimum the government must make source protection of drinking watersheds an urgent priority.”
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