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Inverhuron concerned citizens group challenges water and sewer project

By: Liz Dadson
March 8, 2015
 
 

What began as a general update about the Inverhuron water and sewer project, turned into a debate between two engineers, at the Kincardine council meeting Wednesday night (March 4).

Chief building official Michele Barr told council that the municipality applied for the Build Canada Funding in November, 2008, to address environmental and infrastructure issues in the community of Inverhuron. She said the municipality and the Inverhuron and District Ratepayers Association (IDRA) had discussed these concerns as early as May, 2008, but the costs for servicing the area with both water and sanitary sewers, were prohibitive. With the announcement of the federal-provincial grant program, this project became a priority.

In March of 2009, Kincardine was notified it had received a two-thirds grant of $6,076,400. This led to the Environmental Assessment (EA) process, initiated in May, 2009, said Barr. A steering committee was formed, comprised of seven community members, two members of council, municipal staff, B.M. Ross staff and Grey Bruce Health Unit staff.

The committee met from October, 2009, to October, 2011. During this time, on-site surveys and water sampling were done, and public meetings held. Dec. 14, 2011, council approved the project, with mandatory connection, capital and reserve charge included, low-pressure grinder pumps as the sewage collection system, and financing options.

Barr said the screening report was completed and published but received two Part 2 order requests - one from the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) and the other from the Inverhuron Watershed Concerned Citizens. The notice of EA completion was withdrawn in June, 2012. A year later, the SON agreement was finalized, and in early January, a revised Class EA report was published and a Part 2 order request submitted by the concerned citizens group.

Finally, in December, 2014, approval came from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, allowing Kincardine to proceed with the project. Subsequently, the municipality has submitted a request for an extension to the grant funding deadline which is March 31, 2016.

Barr said that, to date, the municipality has incurred about $1,058,500 in expenses and has received $511,432.26 reimbursement, for this project.

Deputy mayor Jacqueline Faubert asked what the catalyst was for this project.
Councillor Laura Haight, policy chairperson for planning and former policy chairperson for public works, said the policy in 2008 was that if 60 per cent of residents on a certain street wanted municipal water, they would be connected to the water system.

Faubert asked if there was a survey done of the residents to see if 60 per cent wanted to hook up.
"No," said Haight, "the question was do you have issues with your water and sewer systems? And a lot of concern was about the cost. Initially, it was too expensive to extend the waterline. People at the end of the street couldn't get water and, therefore, couldn't fix up their properties."

"So, you went ahead without 60 per cent of the residents saying they wanted water?" asked councillor Linda McKee.
"No, the original policy required that 60 per cent of the residents on the street wanted the water before it would be connected," said Haight. "In this case, there were flooding problems and water and sewer concerns in Inverhuron. At that time, the cost was going to be $40,000 per property. There was significant interest in the community."

"But the community's interest was not 60 per cent?" asked McKee.
'No," said Haight.

Councillor Maureen Couture said there were seven people from the Inverhuron community on the steering committee for this project and they were very supportive.

Engineers Bruce Potter and Kelly Vader of B.M. Ross and Associates, added further to the background and the current status of this project.

Vader noted that the problem was identified by Dr. Brian Luinstra based on investigations completed during the summer and fall of 2009. The Inverhuron geology is classified as "high risk" because of fractured bedrock, a thin overburden and lack of protective "filter" for recharging groundwater, a high density of private wells, aging and poorly-maintained septic systems, small lots, and the close proximity of wells to septic systems.

The municipality chose the low-pressure grinder pump system because it was less expensive, and the municipality would own and maintain the pumps.

The following Guiding Principles were put in place:
  • Base water rate
  • Mandatory connection
  • Municipal ownership and maintenance of grinder pumps
  • Capital and reserve charges

Vader said that B.M. Ross is finalizing the design for sewage and water distribution lines in the road allowances. There are ongoing discussions with grinder pump manufacturers regarding the size of distribution lines; Inverhuron residents are still forwarding lot-servicing details for grinder pump locations; tender documents are being prepared; and a tentative tender date is later this month.

The next steps are to continue to work with residents of Inverhuron on grinder pump and water service locations; meet with Bruce County Highways to discuss joint works along Bruce County Road 15; and meet with the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority to review the status of that application.

In response to Faubert's question about the expiry date on the EA, Vader said it is good for 10 years, from the date of completion which was 2014.

Donald A.C. Stewart of the Inverhuron Watershed Concerned Citizens Association, now an incorporated organization, told council the group has a number of concerns about this project which it believes will negatively affect the community.

These include:
  • Mandatory water hook-up - the association opposes this, noting that the steering committee recommended non-mandatory water hook-up but was ignored by council
  • Lack of community impact studies - the association estimates the project cost to be at least $10-million, and wonders where the rest of the money will from, since the grant is capped at $6-million; the following question needs to be addressed: "Is there a point where the project becomes too expensive?"
  • Social impact - the association states that this project will cause great hardship to a population which consists of many pensioners and other families who simply cannot afford the cost; many  have called Inverhuron their home, either permanently or seasonally, for more than 50 years; where is council's community impact study?
  • Project technology - the association questions the use of grinder pumps which are not a robust technology and use hydro which will drive up that cost as well; where are the cost estimates to cover the known deficiencies caused by these pumps and the budget to pay them?
  • Environmental - there are still outstanding issues regarding groundwater studies and seasonal flooding which have yet to be dealt with satisfactorily

Stewart said the IDRA has not spoken on behalf of the Inverhuron community for 15 years. It is, essentially a social group, he said.

"So, who's driving the bus here?" he asked. "Our lawyer will give this council a written opinion that you have no responsibility to provide water along Inverhuron. Is it the engineers who are driving this project? You councillors need to consider what's best for the community."

James McKeary, a resident of Victoria Street in Inverhuron, with project management and construction expertise, said he objects to this project.

He said the Build Canada infrastructure grants were supposed to be for "shovel-ready" projects. "Here we are, seven years later, and you don't have a tender package ready. In seven years, why didn't you have a plebiscite of the 400 residents of Inverhuron to see what services people need and will pay for? Why force this project on the people of Inverhuron."

McKeary said it will take two to two-and-a-half years to build this project, so it will not meet the March, 2016, deadline. "Plus, you don't have the support of the people affected."

Potter said the project includes 10-11 kilometres of linear trench which can be completed in the time allotted. "But, if we get the extension, that's an extra safety valve," he said.

As McKeary and Potter continued to debate engineering issues, Couture called a point of order that the delegation was to be 10 minutes in length and had gone on for about 25 minutes.
Haight asked McKeary and Stewart to wrap up their presentation quickly.

"I feel it's unfair, as a taxpayer, that I'm restricted by time, and not allowed to complete my presentation," said McKeary.
Haight suggested he put his name forward on a future agenda to make a full delegation.

"Thank you, council, for your time," said Stewart. "The Inverhuron Watershed Concerned Citizens Association is evolving into an organization that speaks with authority for this area."

Potter said there have been discussions with contractors about this project and they are interested. The engineers are completing the Environmental Clearance Approval which will be submitted this week and be expedited quickly, likely within a month, he said.

Haight said that approval was part of the municipality's project extension application.




Donald A.C. Stewart (L) and James McKeary of the Inverhuron Watershed Concerned Citizens Association, oppose the Inverhuron water and sewer project

 

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