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Private systems bad for water

Mel Hale says Victoria should ban privately run water systems after a Sierra Legal Defense Fund report on water regulations gave British Columbia a failing grade.<br><br>B.C.

Mel Hale says Victoria should ban privately run water systems after a Sierra Legal Defense Fund report on water regulations gave British Columbia a failing grade.<br><br>B.C. scored a D, the same as Ontario before the Walkerton disaster, for a lack of water testing legislation, the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 900 president says.<br><br>Hale adds giving any control to private companies, without laws to enforce quality control, will leave citizens vulnerable.<br><br>"Yes, why shouldn't they (ban private water agreements)? There are some things that should be in the public's hands and some things that can be contracted out.<br><br>"Water isn't one of them. We need to have methods in place to test the water. There is no legislation."<br><br>Hale says ordering municipalities to upgrade water systems isn't the same as legislation requiring high standards and regular tests.<br><br>"What would it mean if council decides to privatize our water-treatment plant? We'd be putting our water - the water we drink, cook with and wash with - in the hands of a private company out to earn a profit at our expense."<br><br>Coun. Peter Sharp agrees stronger legislation to monitor water is required, but says problems with water quality can arise no matter who is running the system, private companies or public employees.<br><br>"Any system in place is subject to problems. Look at Walkerton (a publicly run utility).<br><br>"It doesn't matter who runs it. But I'd like to see mandatory legislation to make sure testing is going on."<br><br>He adds council is obligated to investigate a private-public partnership in order to keep the cost of a water-filtration system, estimated at $50 million, down. <br><br>"I think our city would be remiss if it didn't investigate all avenues in order to keep costs to a respectable level."<br><br>Karim Kassam, EPCOR Water Services general manager whose company has been lobbying city officials to consider a private-public partnership, says the province's failing grade is a prime example of why cities need private systems.<br><br>He says the city could set its own criteria for water quality and testing and force his company to comply with standards higher than existing or future legislation.<br><br>"If you want to make someone accountable, what better way than a contractual agreement between the city and our company?"<br><br>Kassam adds his company has higher standards for water quality than the Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines.<br><br>For example, he says, the guidelines only require water have 15 tcu (true colour units) when gauging turbidity. His company has a standard of five and is trying to reduce it to three at all its existing plants.<br><br>Kassam adds he would sign a contract with tougher water quality standards and more frequent testing than what the province would legislate. <br><br>