Devine residents, regional district at odds with watershed logging 

Trouble is brewing on the forested mountain slopes above the bucolic hamlet of Devine, about 40 kilometres northeast of Pemberton.

The community’s drinking water supply, which is taken from Spruce Creek, is in danger of being contaminated by logging.

"We have pretty good water here right now," said Russell Mack, a six-year resident who looks after the community water system. "But I didn’t move here to have a clearcut in my backyard."

According to Mack, logging in the watershed has been an ongoing issue.

"There haven’t been any real problems yet but there needs to be the proper safeguards," he said, noting that the Ministry of Forests has previously approved logging in the watershed to reduce the fire hazard.

Mack also said a logging road that crosses the creek near the community’s drinking water intake exposes local residents to further health risks.

"I’m not opposed to the forest industry but that area needs to be secure," he said in an interview from his home. "There was a slide from an old road which increased sedimentation in the water."

According to the Ministry of Forests, the Spruce Creek watershed is a multiple-use area where logging and road building can occur.

Each of these activities can increase the risk of parasites, such as cryptosporidium and giardia , entering the water system.

Seven people died in Walkerton, Ont., last year after the town's water was contaminated. Last month, in North Battleford, Sask., hundreds of people became ill after they drank water containing cryptosporidium.

In the summer of 1996, as many as 17,000 people in two B.C. cities — Kelowna and Cranbrook — were overcome with flu-like symptoms due to water-borne parasites.

But the Ministry of Forests said, despite logging in the watershed, an outbreak is unlikely to happen in Devine.

"There has been very little disturbance compared to the size of the watershed," Julian Grzybowski, the MoF’s small business officer, said from his office in Squamish. "The potential for harvesting timber is still there."

However, no more logging will take place before a watershed assessment is completed, said Grzybowski.

The study is part of negotiations between the ministry and SLRD that is aimed at ensuring any forestry activities within the Spruce Creek watershed are mitigated and the quality of water is maintained.

But Andrew Reeder, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District’s utilities manager, dismissed Grzybowski’s claims and said logging in the watershed is a "real concern."

"The creek is the only source of water and it feeds straight into their taps," he said, adding that any type of logging activity could increase sedimentation and turbidity in the creek.

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