| Nov 29, 2007


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Feature Article - November 29, 2007

Water Woes Plaque Small Municipalities Thoughout Ontarioby Jeff Green

It is not only in the village of Sydenham that water is a difficult, and expensive, political issue.

The intense interest the Province of Ontario has paid to water problems in the wake of the Walkerton tragedy has been felt in many small municipalities, and changes in the Ontario Safe Drinking Water Act have made it possible for certain communities to invest in point of entry systems instead of water treatment plants.

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This kind of solution might be considered by communities in Frontenac County, who would likely be facing higher costs for water than the residents of Sydenham Village are facing because no other village in the County has the number and size of institutional users that Sydenham has (Sydenham High School, Loughborough Pubic School, Maple Ridge Apartments, etc.)

However, one tiny Ontario community that looked at a point of entry system found it was more expensive than it appeared.

The Township of North Shore in Huron County has been pre-occupied with water ever since 2001, when the Ministry of the Environment forced them to take over a failing water system and sewage lagoon that serves 21 homes.

The homes had been built by a uranium mining company in the 1950’s. They were sold to the occupants in 1971, and for 30 years the water system was in place without incident. But eventually choloform problems developed and the Ministry of the Environment asked the residents to address the problem. When they could not afford to do so, the township was forced to take over the water system and sewage lagoon.

North Shore Township has been considering three options for cleaning up the water, and at one point they were leaning towards a point of entry system. “In the end there were too many problems, and the expense would have been quite high,” said Heather Pelky, the township’s mayor.

A centralized filtration system was chosen, and even with provincial and federal funding support, it was still going to cost the 21 households $16,000 each for the system, and a whopping $285 per month for the water.

The township was able, however, to get a grant from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, which would see the upfront costs drop by $13,000, to $3,000.

This would make them the envy of Sydenham Village residents, who are still waiting for water bills that are expected to be in the $10,000 range.

The actual cost per household for North Shore residents could still be much higher, however. “We’re not certain what it will actually cost the homeowners,” said Heather Pelky, “because those initial costs were based on a $2 million estimate of the cost of construction. Now that the tenders are in, the cost is $3 million and we don’t know if all of the government departments involved will come through with the extra money.”

In the Township of North Shore, just as in Frontenac County, there are other small hamlets with water problems, and Heather Pelky sees only one solution: support from the province.

“We’ve been lobbying the province, and we need to join with others as well, to convince them to come up with something that recognises towns with populations of under 1,000 people. These small communities cannot afford the water systems the province wants then to have. They are unsustainable the way things are now.”

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