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More than 100 local residents crowded First United Church in White Rock, B.C., the evening of Monday, June 3 to hear about the opportunity for increased public accountability of their drinking water systems.

Speakers at the event included Professor Dr. Mildred Warner of Cornell University’s Department of Regional Planning, Ava Waxman of the Council of Canadians, and community representative Phil LeGood. Attendees at the event were welcomed by Chief Joanne Charles of the Semiahmoo First Nation.

A very engaged group of concerned citizens participated in the event,” said Margaret Woods, spokesperson for the White Rock Accountable Water Committee who hosted the event. “White Rock has the chance to finally have control over our drinking water, and local residents are very excited by this opportunity.”

White Rock’s water systems are currently owned by the Edmonton based utility corporation EPCOR. White Rock City Council is investigating the feasibility of acquiring the utility, and will be considering a business case on June 10.

“The case for the City of White Rock to acquire control of our drinking water system is one based on simple common sense,” said Woods. “Whether the City buys the utility or EPCOR uses $22 million for upgrades, the money will come from the White Rock water users.”

After the 2010 boil water advisory and concerns expressed by Fraser Health, the Edmonton based utility corporation EPCOR proposes a $22 Million upgrade to ensure protection from e-coli through chlorination, and treat for unacceptable levels of arsenic and manganese.

Should residents contribute to EPCOR profits?” asked Woods. “Or keep our money in our community with a citizen owned system?”

B.C. cities of similar size to White Rock have been effective at delivering quality public drinking water. These include Port Alberni, Oak Bay, Pitt Meadows, Squamish, Cranbrook, Fort St. John, Courtenay, Langley, West Kelowna, and North Cowichan.

It is time for White Rock to finally join the club of communities making certain public money is used to benefit the public, and provide publicly accountable drinking water,” added Woods.

The White Rock Accountable Water Committee is hosting another public event which involves the free screening of the film Water Makes Money: How Private Corporations Make Money With Water, 7PM Tuesday June 18 at the White Rock First United Church, 15385 Semiahmoo Avenue.

The White Rock Accountable Water Committee is supported by White Rock City Workers CUPE Local 402-01, CUPE BC Water Watch, and the Council of Canadians, Surrey/Langley/White Rock Chapter.