FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Airport User Fee Sought For Aquifer Protection
Public Consultation on Development Needed to Secure Nanaimo’s Water Supply
CEDAR – On World Water Day, as Canada Water Week comes to a close, a Vancouver Island organization has sent a letter to local municipal and regional governments, expressing concern about the possibility of contamination to the Island’s second largest aquifer.(attached)
“Our bottom-line is to see the Cassidy aquifer and catchment area protected so that the water remains clean and safe to drink,” says Gourlay, president of VICCS, a non-profit organization. “New information suggests the City of Nanaimo is planning to permanently tap into the Cassidy aquifer to meet projected water needs.”
The Vancouver Island and Coast Conservation Society has just learned that development plans and negotiations are taking place outside of the attention of local communities and the Nanaimo public. VICCS has expressed concern that inappropriate development on airport lands, immediately above the aquifer, could lead to hazardous and toxic materials entering the aquifer and water supply.
“The Cassidy aquifer is designated by the BC government as ‘vulnerable and threatened’,” Gourlay notes, “and VICCS has just learned that the Nanaimo Airport has been lobbying mid island governments, requesting support for zoning changes that will enable all airport lands to be developed. We are concerned that unintentional, incremental and accidental releases of spilt fuels, chemicals and the like could pose significant danger to aquifer waters and related ecosystems.”
VICCS also refers to the need for greater community and public involvement in protection of local water supplies, which is one of the major recommendations of the UN’s World Water Development report released late last week. The UN report also notes that within 15 years the world’s population could face a 40% shortfall in the need for a secure and sustainable water supply.
“We need to be proactive in protecting our Island water supplies,” says Gourlay, “The California drought and the US mid-west’s dependency on dwindling water supplies from the Oglala aquifer, offer a lesson that we would be wise to consider. Vancouver Island does not have a limitless supply of clean, safe drinking water.”
The non-profit organization has invited the governments to work in partnership with local residents and communities, and to co-host a public meeting in May that will open discussion, and look for solutions.
“VICCS is also recommending that a $5 surcharge be applied to all tickets issued for flights into and out of the Nanaimo airport,” says Gourlay, adding that the funds should be held in trust by an independent non-profit organization, to be directed to local aquifer, water and watershed protection.
“The user-pay principle suggests that those who use the airport should also pay for protection of the aquifer and waters that may be endangered by such use,” Gourlay states.
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