While the Town of Oliver prides itself on conserving water and using it wisely in the cemetery, one widow is left with a fading headstone.
Barbara Robinson sent a letter to the mayor and council protesting the Town’s use of effluent water to irrigate the cemetery grounds. She was told by Public Works that the white coating on the headstones is calcium from the water.
Robinson said clerk Patti Hannas was very courteous in providing her with a spray bottle containing a special solvent recommended by a headstone manufacturer. “She also gave me rubber gloves and a cloth to use.”
Robinson said she scrubbed for half an hour but couldn’t remove all of the white deposit.
“When purchasing the burial plot, we pay for continuing care. Surely, defacing the headstones is not proper care.”
Robinson, who visits her husband’s plot, said this summer is the first time she has noticed the fading on the grave stone.
“If some kids spray-painted the headstone, I would say that was vandalism. In a sense, to me, this is vandalism.”
Robinson has a plot next to her late husband Donald and plans to be buried there when she dies. She expects the headstone to show some “wear and tear” from the weather, but to see it fading is upsetting.
Director of Operations Shawn Goodsell said he has never received this type of complaint before. “Our water is generally hard and always leaves deposits regardless.”
Goodsell said their operators tested the hardness of the reclaimed water this week and it was 280 mg/l. He compared that to the Town’s normal drinking water, which was tested at 300 mg/l last week.
“This hardness always fluctuates a bit and because the reclaimed water has more sodium in it, it will generally be less hard than some of our wells.”
Goodsell said he isn’t sure what other products Robinson could use, but noted that Graco Granite Ltd. in Summerland (250-494-0474) may know of some.
Robinson said she considered using vinegar, but didn’t want to risk damaging the headstone’s surface.
Goodsell acknowledged it’s a problem that you can’t really get away from.
“As for changing the water, it will still leave deposits whether it is the domestic or reclaimed water.”
Municipal Manager Tom Szalay confirmed that calcium hardness in reclaimed water should be near the same level as fresh, municipal water supplied for domestic use.
“Neither normal domestic water use nor treatment as the Town’s treatment facilities adds calcium to the water.”
Mayor Ron Hovanes said use of reclaimed water for irrigation is an important component of Oliver’s wastewater management plan.
“Reclaimed water irrigation within the Town is one of the keystones of the Town’s water conservation plan, where fresh domestic water is reserved for domestic use instead of irrigation of public spaces,” Hovanes said.
Reclaimed water has been in use at the cemetery since 2005.
With the recent loss of he CPR and Lions Park wells, it is possible that the average hardness in Town water may have increased, the mayor said. He noted this is the result of natural hardness in original well water sources, not because of reclaimed water use.