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A team of eight City of Kelowna water and wastewater operators has travelled to Merritt to help with the city’s post-flood recovery.
The crew set off across the Connector on Saturday morning and will stay in Merritt for five days.
Its mission is to help get the beleaguered city’s water systems running again.
Merritt’s entire population, around 7,000 people, was evacuated due to catastrophic flooding last week – but residents will begin returning today.
“The Merritt team is small and mighty, but their systems are overwhelmed and they’re dealing with their own personal losses,” Utility Services Manager Kevin Van Vliet said.
“As water and wastewater operators, we understand the challenge ahead and we have the expertise and ability to move around our activities to free up a team to support them,” Wastewater Manager Mike Gosselin added.
“It’s a full-team effort – whether you’re one of those on the ground in Merritt or taking on extra duties here in Kelowna while this team is away.”
The Kelowna team has been working 12 hours a day to bring two systems back online.
Merritt’s wastewater system, including the primary treatment facility, was flooded, which brought rocks and silt into the system.
It needs to be emptied, cleaned and re-seeded with active biologicals to make the system operate effectively, the team explained.
The water system in Merritt requires similar efforts.
It must be fully flushed and disinfected, checked for leaks and damage repaired before clean water can run again.
The Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) has also sent a small team to provide relief to the Merritt EOC.
It includes experienced staff from the City of Kelowna, West Kelowna and Regional District of the Central Okanagan.
“Here in Kelowna, we understand what it’s like to face large natural disasters for long, extended periods of time,” Van Vliet added.
“It takes many people – talented and dedicated people – to step in and help out.
“As water and Wastewater operators, we have always supported each other with collaborative training, tours and learning opportunities, so we’re also pleased to be able to support other communities in challenging times too.”
Back in Kelowna, meanwhile, evacuees – including those from Merritt – have been granted free access to facilities at the Parkinson Recreation Centre.
Visitors must be fully vaccinated to use the fitness centre, however.
“We understand that many people staying in our city at the moment are dealing with incredible challenges back home, and we want to do what we can to help those displaced feel a bit more at ease during their time here,” said Drew Petrie, administration and business services manager at Parkinson Recreation Centre.
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