Maple Ridge hiring water inspector

Maple Ridge doesn’t want a disaster like the one in Walkerton, Ont., where people died after contamination of the water supply.

So it’s about to hire a full-time inspector to keep the drinking water system safe from contamination by sewage, chemicals, disease, natural gas or any other agent that could find its way into the water supply.

At cost of about $100,000 for salary and vehicle, the district is hiring someone specifically for the project because under the Drinking Water Protection Act municipalities have to ensure drinking water is safe.

Ed Mitchell, superintendent of water works, told council last week that the cross connection control program will require the inspection of 2,900 businesses and industries and will take about five years to complete.

Before the inspections begin however, the district will launch a communications campaign so business operators know why they’ll be getting the call. Once approached in person about the need for the program, businesses warm to the idea, council heard.

When the inspector arrives at a building, he or she will be checking to ensure there’s no chance of a sewage pipe contaminating a water supply. For example, that could happen if water and sewer pipes are installed in the same trench and there’s a breakage of both.

They’ll also be checking to ensure that plumbing modifications haven’t put a water tap near toxic chemicals where they could be back siphoned into the water system.

Before it started looking at businesses however, the district looked at its own buildings and made necessary corrections. One measure was installing backflow prevention valves on outdoor water faucets. That’s done to protect against backflow should a hose be left in contaminated area, such as one with pesticides.

Mitchell said that most measures needed to ensure safety don’t involve major costs and won’t involve residential inspections because the plumbing code covers most safety issues.

“I don’t see that happening and that’s not normally the process.”

Coun. Linda King pointed out the program would starting near the anniversary of the Walkerton disaster, in May 2000, in which seven people died after the drinking water system had been contaminated by E. coli bacteria after farm runoff went into water well.