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19th December 2023
19 Sunshine Coast properties can’t drink water due to elevated arsenic levels

By Darrian Matassa-Fung & Grace Ke Global News
Posted December 17, 2023 7:19 pm
Updated December 17, 2023 11:41 pm

Jack Mocarski has to drive down a road to pick up water for every drop he uses for drinking and cooking.

The Sunshine Coast resident, along with 18 other properties in the Garden Bay area, has been under a “do not use” warning for their water due to elevated arsenic levels.

They get some of their water from dropped-off jugs, paid for by Clearwater Utilities.

“Usually I get one (bottle at a time) because we don’t want anyone to run out,” he said.

Mocarski and his 18 Dream Valley Estate neighbours have been doing this once or twice a week for the past 15 months.

“Occasionally there isn’t enough water for everyone so we have to go to IGA,” he said.

Originally, high levels of arsenic were found in the well water at the end of September 2022. Mocarski said it took two months for the residents to be notified.

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“(We were) drinking water with arsenic for 2 months. We were outraged by that,” he said.

“They mentioned in March of this year, a second filtration system but since March, nothing has been done.”

The situation went from bad to worse for the residents when, recently, they saw their utility bill go up from $45 to $117 a month.

“We all found this as an insult,” he said. “Right now, we have a problem with arsenic in the water and you increasing the rate by 2.5 times or more for water we cant even drink. Seriously, fix the water first then increase our rates.”

The service provider in the region is Clearwater Utilities. In a statement, it said arsenic is an issue on the Sunshine Coast and many residents rely on bottled water.

“Arsenic is and continues to be an issue, particularly on the Sunshine Coast for many years now and many residents must rely on bottled water for drinking,” a spokesperson said.

“…In 2003-2004, we installed a system to remove and lower arsenic to acceptable levels, and has been successful for almost 20 years as monthly arsenic testing is required.

“Unfortunately this past year, the level of arsenic became unacceptable for health guidelines and we continue to work diligently together with the local health officer and certified water specialists to correct and remedy. All necessary steps are being taken as recommended.”

A year ago, the comptroller of water rights in B.C. sent a letter to the Sunshine Coast Regional District outlining how small private systems don’t have the same financial stability as publicly-owned utilities, stating it’s in favour of the district acquiring Clearwater and becoming the primary service provider.

“If you cannot handle your business then pass it on to somebody else. Sell it,”Mocarski said.

“They’ve been really slow and, frankly, really cheap.”

Residents can bathe, wash dishes and do laundry with tap water. They’ll continue to be provided with drinking water, with no word yet on how much longer the issue will continue.

Global News has reached out to Vancouver Coastal Health for comment.