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Theres a new drinking water plant up and running in the city of Kamloops, B.C., and its publicly owned and operated. The completed plant marks the final chapter of a water fight waged by CUPE 900 four years ago. The push for a new plant began in the late 1990s when provincial health officials ordered the city to upgrade its drinking water treatment. High levels of sediment in the citys water source, the South Thompson River, had prompted regular “boil water” orders, especially during the spring run-off.

When it became clear that city council was considering a P3 for the new plant, CUPE joined forces with the Council of Canadians to organize a community campaign that was impossible to ignore. After dealing with multinational consultants and circulating a poll loaded with questions in favour of privatization, city council finally listened to the community and voted unanimously to keep the citys new filtration plant public. The win came in 2001 and was one of four major victories for public water in B.C. communities that year.

The new state-of-the-art plant will treat up to 160 million litres of drinking water each day and is the largest plant using membrane filtration technology in North America. The high-tech filtration system removes 99 per cent of contaminants from the river water far more than conventional sand-filtration plants.

Federal-provincial infrastructure funds helped pay for the plant, proving that governments have the money to pay for public water plants. Commenting on the plants opening, Kamloops Mayor Mel Rothenburger said clean, safe drinking water is a basic right for all our citizens.