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KAMLOOPS—On a provincial tour aimed at promoting sustainable infrastructure, strong local governance and sound investment solutions for communities, CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill says he’s getting close to imagining the “perfect city” based on some of the innovative public projects he’s seen so far.

In Campbell River, I did an interview with the last independent television station in the province. In Castlegar, I saw the new city hall, which uses a geothermal heating system that will pay for itself in three years and is built entirely from local wood. In Nelson, I learned about a new green school that includes sustainable environmental aspects around water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality,” O’Neill told a luncheon gathering of councillors and other local officials here yesterday (Monday).

“And just this morning I visited your centre for water quality, which is something Kamloops residents should not only be proud of but should also share. If I was to build the perfect city—Innovation Town, I like to call it—it would have all of these things, and more.”

For his visit to the Kamloops Centre for Water Quality, O’Neill was accompanied by CUPE BC general vice president Cindy McQueen, regional vice president Carolae Donoghue, CUPE 900 president Gayle Nelson, past CUPE 900 president Mel Hale, and other local members.
This stop on O’Neill’s B.C.-wide tour, which was covered by local television and newspaper reporters, took place as increasing numbers of municipal water operators around the province face privatization. The Kamloops Centre has become a provincial symbol of the fight to keep water services public. When a privatization scheme for the facility first came to light, Hale and other CUPE activists led a successful fight to make it public.

The Centre, which opened three years ago, is the largest operating water treatment facility in North America to use membrane treatment—a more efficient alternative to the more commonly used sand-and-stone water cleaning method.
The membrane system allows for maximum use of the facility’s water. For example, some of the water is recycled to use for a neighbouring playing field and a rooftop garden, which creates another source of heat for the building.

The entire building, in fact, is environmentally friendly. The floors are heated through redistributed water, and 40 per cent of the building is made from glass, which exposes natural light as another heat source. The chlorine used for the water treatment is made from salt, and all oil used by the trades staff is vegetable oil, meaning less contamination of the water supply.

The Centre, which has won a Gold Leeds award for environmental quality, is the only facility of its kind in B.C. and one of only three in Canada. Through a public-public partnership with Thompson Rivers University, the Centre provides water certification training.

Michael Firlotte, a Water Operator II at the Centre, enthused both about the high environmental standard and about the fact that it remains a public facility. When asked what the facility would be like had it been privatized, he said, “Not nearly as good as what we have here. We have a really great staff.”

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