A ‘zombie’ water well sparks debate about Langley Township’s disaster plan

A Fort Langley well has long been plagued with water quality issues. Township council decided in November to decommission the well, and instead, pay for regional water. But health authorities are urging them to not destroy the well forever.

By Joti Grewal | January 10, 2023 |5:00 am

Depending on who you ask, a Langley well is either an immortal zombie or a key piece of disaster preparedness infrastructure.

In November, Fraser Health pleaded with Township Langley council not to permanently close its Fort Langley Well #2. The Township’s new council, though, has brushed off the health authority’s worries.

Following the election, council had decided to shut off the well water supply to North Langley residents after concerns about water quality. The city will instead pay for regional water. Staff were also asked to prepare a report about the feasibility of demolishing and removing the well. But two weeks later, the health authority wrote to the municipality urging it to consider its usefulness in a disaster.

In its letter, Fraser Health identified “public health factors that should be taken into consideration regarding the decision to maintain a back-up water supply.”

Despite being told by staff that the township’s emergency water plan may not be up to date, council still voted contrary to Fraser Health’s advice.

Story continues below.

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FUTURE OF DECOMMISSIONED WATER WELL REVIVED

The Fraser Health letter was not included in council’s agenda package and its details were not entirely revealed during the council meeting. The Current, instead, requested a copy. (You can view the letter here.)

“Having access to multiple water sources is critical in managing hazards such as the loss of a primary water sources,” the health authority advised. The township had revealed that a 201 Street Metro Vancouver water pipe does not meet seismic standards, Fraser Health wrote, and “having access to this alternate water source is a critical component in managing potential hazards.”

“Maintaining Fort Langley Well #2 as a back-up source will aid in mitigating future risks to the water system until measures have been taken to address the seismic standards that have been identified.”

Coun. Misty vanPopta said she wouldn’t support Fraser Health’s suggestion “strictly for the fact that I’m fairly confident that we have an emergency preparedness plan in place that covers water being terminated.”

After fellow Coun. Tim Baillie suggested council consider the role of the well in the township’s disaster plan, rather than a standalone water source, vanPopta asked staff if the township does in fact have an emergency plan for water.

It does, but staff said it’s “been a while since [they’ve] looked at it.”

Mayor Eric Woodward has been calling for the well to be decommissioned for years, and said he preferred to see the issue closed.

“This well is like a zombie creature at the end of a bad movie that just won’t die,” he said during the December meeting.

Coun. Margaret Kunst suggested council reconsider maintaining the well after the health authority asked that the well be kept as an emergency water resource. She added the water source “fits in” with BC’s Water Sustainability Act, which protects supply of fresh water.

Most of council believed there were sufficient water sources and maintaining the well would be costly. Woodward’s slate of councillors voted down the idea to use the Fort Langley well as an emergency water source. Only councillors Kunst and Kim Ritcher supported the proposal.

Watch council discuss the future of the well here.


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Joti Grewal

Reporter at Fraser Valley Current

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