Jeff Green | Dec 03, 2009
Back to HomeFeature Article - December 3, 2009War of words over Lanark Village water By Jeff Green
Lanark Frontenac Lennox and Addington MP Scott Reid, in conjunction with his provincial counterpart, Randy Hillier, went ahead with their survey of Lanark Highlands residents about a preferred solution to the Lanark Village water problem.
The survey results, which were released earlier this week, showed that a large majority of respondents preferred solution B, whereby the Township of Lanark Highlands would cover the cost of individual water treatment for homeowners in Lanark Village with contaminated wells and septic systems at no cost to the residents.
Solution A on the survey is the solution that has been proposed by the Mayor Bob Fletcher and endorsed by the township; a water and sewer project that will cost a total of $28 million plus, including a contribution of $9,000 from each homeowner in Lanark Village.
The survey also asked if the township should pay $900,000 for a complete design study for the water and sewer system, and the majority answered no.
The survey has been controversial from the start, provoking Lanark Highlands and Lanark County Councils to accuse Reid and Hillier of interfering in a municipal process.
Bruce Horlin, the Deputy Mayor of Lanark Highlands, said that the solution proposed by Reid and Hillier, “had been considered in a consultant’s study that was prepared for the project, and found to be unworkable.”
Horlin also points out that a letter was sent to Scott Reid on July 15 by Anne Carter, the Medical Officer of Health for Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District.
Dr. Carter wrote, “I will not be supporting individual water treatment systems for each home.” She cited several reasons for her opinion. She said, “The environmental contamination in Lanark Village is a communal problem that requires a communal solution,” and that it was the fault of many levels of government that the situation was allowed to develop.
She also said that water is not the only problem in Lanark; soil and groundwater contamination is an issue as well. “Other municipalities have discovered the adverse consequences of dealing with the water quality issue without dealing with the other issues involved.”
She also said, “There is no legal framework for any agency to provide and maintain water treatment systems on private wells in private homes”. If a system is offered, it may or may not be accepted, and once installed, it may or may not be maintained.
Aside from disputing the in-home water treatment solution, Horlin and his counterparts at Lanark County are angered by Reid and Hillier going over their head to the public with the proposals.
“We have already heard from our ratepayers through our municipal public process and consultation continues,” said Lanark Highlands Mayor Bob Fletcher, pointing out that three municipal councils have worked on this and more than 13 public meetings have been held over the years.
Still, a solution may be years away.
Lanark Highlands received a one-time grant of $7.25 million from the Province of Ontario for water and sewer a few years ago. That money has been invested and the township proposes to use interest from it to fund the $900,000 design work.
The township plans to apply to the next infrastructure program that is announced for 2/3 funding, using the $7.25 million they already have as a municipal contribution. This will leave a shortfall of at least $2.5 million, which would have to be covered by residents of Lanark Village, about $9,000 each, and the township would offer options for payment.
According to Scott Reid, the cost estimates from water and sewer advocates are optimistic. He pegged the cost at $13,000 up front for village homeowners and $1,350 in annual fees.
In a letter that came out after the ballot results were announced, Bruce Horlin attacked Reid and Hillier's process, calling it a biased process. “I won't be influenced by it and I'll be encouraging my council colleagues to ignore it as an unhelpful intrusion into the township's affairs,” he wrote.
“The issue now is,” Horlin added, “how do we set about repairing a vital federal/provincial/municipal relationship that has been so severely and unnecessarily damaged?”
For his part, Scott Reid also wrote a letter this week.
In it he points out that on November 23 the Regional Medical Officer of Health sent a letter to residents of Lanark Village urging them to treat or boil their water.
This situation could have been averted with bacterial treatment and reverse osmosis of household water, Reid argues, which, he said he has been urging on Mayor Fletcher since July.
“I regret that my advice was not taken by Mayor Fletcher when it was first given to him. Had this been done, many or perhaps all of the homes in Lanark Village would now have water treatment systems on their wells, at no cost to homeowners, and the Health Officer’s letter of alert would not have been necessary,” Reid wrote.