EAST SOOKE, BC: LOCAL WATER FIGHT REACHES RCMP, BC SUPREME COURT
By Gillian Ward
A picturesque rural residential community on Vancouver Island remains under a boil water advisory issued two years ago, no end in sight.
According to Vancouver Island Health Authority, the Misty Ridge Community Water Company Inc. (MRCWC) operates a water treatment system that does not comply with BC drinking water regulations, a matter that has plagued this community from its beginning, well over twenty years ago.
Residents of Misty Ridge, located along a section of Seedtree Road in the East Sooke Capital Regional District, informed WaterToday the lots were offered for sale in 1998 by three developers, with the understanding that drinking water would be delivered through the development’s own water utility, jointly owned and operated by the title holders.
Some residents claim that water to their properties was shut off dozens of time a year, and boil water advisories occurred with regularity. When some of the owners took legal action against their own water utility, the cost was divided and distributed back to the water users.
WaterToday heard from three of the owners, claiming to have received water bills into multiple thousands, claiming no detailed breakdown to explain the charges. Disgruntled owner/shareholders claim the water company books had not been presented for review or audit as requested.
Frustration with the Misty Ridge water supply escalated into the criminal realm in the summer of 2014. An incident was reported to police in 2014, as a witness told WaterToday , it appeared someone had attempted to contaminate the community water storage reservoir.
WaterToday contacted E Division, RCMP Subdivision headquarters in Victoria for more information on the alleged water sabotage event at Misty Ridge.
According to Cpl. Chris Manseau of BC Subdivision office, RCMP, “In August 2014 the Sooke RCMP were contacted about mischief that occurred to a private water reservoir that fed approximately 12 units. Through investigation it was determined that the lock on the lid of the reservoir had been broken and that a substance had been put into the water. Testing was conducted on the water and it was found to contain a high level of e-coli bacteria, coming from what was believed to be horse manure. An extensive investigation was conducted by the Sooke RCMP but no suspect was identified, and charges were never put forward for Crown Counsels review.”
As of this writing, seven of the original twelve households have withdrawn from MRCWC, opting for non-conforming private cisterns and having potable water delivered by truck.
Five title holders in Misty Ridge now share the cost to operate the water company, including legal fees that continue to accumulate from two civil suits presently before the BC Supreme Court.
WaterToday obtained files from BC Supreme Court to find that two disgruntled property owner/shareholders have petitioned the highest court in British Columbia, seeking dissolution of the conflicted water utility, citing shareholder oppression.
These same petitioners have appealed to BC Premier John Horgan for intervention in their matter, with no response from the Premier’s office as of yet. One resident alleges that civil servants in the water regulatory branch have referred to Misty Ridge residents as the Hatfields and McCoys, and advised they just need to learn to get along.
Marilyn Fleming says she bought her place in Misty Ridge over twenty years ago and has no intention of giving it up over the long term conflict over water here.
“I can watch orcas in the strait”, she says of the view from her deck, facing south toward Washington, with a sentiment echoed by many property owners that would rather work out solutions to their water needs or flooding issues, than give up and move away.
Mrs. Fleming defends the MRCWC system design and function, telling WaterToday the five properties still with MRCWC are served with good water from two deep wells and storage reservoir. The water is managed by the remaining user group, including Fleming and her family, which own collectively three of the five properties left on the system.
Mrs. Fleming says there is no intention to remedy the boil water order. Fleming says her household has not stopped drinking the water, rather, the boil water advisory is leverage, hoping that the CRD moves to pipe municipal water to Misty Ridge in the future.
WaterToday reached the Environmental Health Inspector with Vancouver Island Health that initiated the boil water advisory here in August 2018.
We were declined any comments on the situation until an approved statement could be issued. WaterToday is still waiting for that statement.
Water is difficult to obtain in this beautiful part of our country. Drilling to depths of 700 or 800 feet is required, with no guarantees. The CRD limits approvals for new water distribution projects, as the infrastructure is very costly in this terrain. For Misty Ridge, a peaceful and friendly solution for clean drinking water is still hoped for. WaterToday will update our readers as this interesting case unfolds in BC.