Workers install a new section of water main on the West Bench last summer.

Workers install a new section of water main on the West Bench last summer.

West Bench opens tap on new water system

Much anticipated upgrade ends long-standing boil water advisory for about 1,100 people near Penticton

After living for years under a permanent boil water advisory, West Bench residents can now safely drink right from their taps.

A new water system tied into Penticton’s municipal supply got the green light from Interior Health on Friday. That allowed the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen to end its long-standing warning to boil water.

The RDOS said in a press release it’s planning a community celebration and open house sometime this summer.

Commissioning of the system, which includes new water mains and a booster station, was stalled by a strike by FortisBC workers that led to a delay in connecting a key piece of electrical equipment.

The old system was supplied by an intake on Okanagan Lake near the mouth of the river channel and was plagued with water quality issues.

The $9.8-million upgrade was approved by West Bench voters in a 2012 referendum. About $5.7 million is covered by grants, while the balance was borrowed by the RDOS on behalf of about 1,100 residents who will pay it back.

The RDOS will pay the city 22 cents per cubic metre for water, plus an up-front fee of $3.6 million covered by the province.

It’s still unknown how residents will be billed for their consumption. Water meters were installed at each connection and customers will receive mock bills for the time being while the RDOS decides how best to charge for the service on a user-pay basis.