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White Rock completes the municipalization of its once privately-owned water utility

The City of White Rock in British Columbia has completed the purchase of its once privately-owned water utility.

CBC reports, “The City of White Rock has negotiated a final price for the city’s water utility, which it purchased from private provider EPCOR two years ago. …The city said that it would receive a $600,000 reimbursement from the Edmonton-based company, making the final purchase price $13.4 million. …White Rock has been plagued with numerous water issues over the years, including high levels of naturally occurring manganese and arsenic, turbidity and E. coli contamination. In a news release, the city says residents have been saving on their water bills since it took over the utility.”

White Rock, which has a population of about 20,000 people, is located within the Metro Vancouver regional district.

Two years ago, Mayor Wayne Baldwin said, “We heard from the citizens of White Rock that owning our water utility was important. This is the largest project undertaken by the City of White Rock and I am pleased that we have signed the agreement and are taking the next steps to move forward.”

This fight began more than four years ago.

On June 3, 2013, Council of Canadians organizer Ava Waxman spoke at a public event in White Rock with about 100 people in attendance in favour of the municipalization of the water utility. That event also included Chief Joanne Charles of the Semiahmoo First Nation, Margaret Woods from the White Rock Accountable Water Committee, Dr. Mildred Warner from Cornell University, and community representative Phil LeGood.

Later that month, the White Rock Accountable Water Committee – supported by the Council of Canadians Surrey-Langley-White Rock chapter, CUPE Local 402-01, and Water Watch – screened the film Water Makes Money: How Private Corporations Make Money With Water. That film includes clips of Blue Planet Project founder Maude Barlow.

Public Services International has noted, “The White Rock water utility has never been publicly owned. That is why While Rock case is refereed as ‘municipalisation’. The privately owned White Rock Water Works Company owned the city’s water system from 1912. Its subsidiary, White Rock Utilities Ltd., took over the system in 1969. In 2005, White Rock Utilities Ltd. became a subsidiary of Epcor Utilities Inc.”

As a result of a lot of good movement activism, the City of White Rock’s water utility is now in public hands!

Congratulations to all involved in this struggle.