Crystal Springs wastewater system will offer ‘opt out’

Pigeon Lake resident points out deficiencies on both sides of wastewater issue

Dear editor,

I recently attended a meeting of the Crystal Springs council where the Lakewise group made another presentation expressing concern with the wastewater initiative.

Various points were raised and the Crystal Springs mayor had a thoughtful response for each of the concerns. In quoting from the recent Municipal Affairs inspection of his council, Mayor Churchill’s responses to Lakewise group’s concerns included: “Repeated council resolutions for additional reports appear to be an answer-shopping effort and an excessive attempt to appease one councilor in hopes of achieving consensus on the council decision” and “Council acted in an improvident manner by engaging duplicate contractors to complete the same task.” And finally, “Council engaged engineering experts to assist them in making reasoned, evidence-based decisions, and then second-guessed the expert advice they received.”

When the presenters then asked for information as to cost and homeowner subsidies, there were still no definitive answers. The mayor’s concluding quote was that the inspection thought that council did okay, “In spite of contrary opinions and a lack of wastewater consensus in the community and on the Crystal Springs council, leadership did occur and decisions were made in an appropriate public forum, following limited public consultation and after considering expert advice.”

All that being said, the truth is that Lakewise is correct that, unfortunately, most of the public remains in the dark about three key questions. The first question is whether or not the “low pressure” system will work adequately. The engineers who designed the Crystal Springs system are experts in this field. As a trained engineer myself, albeit in a different industry, I have asked many tough technical questions. The responses I received were complete and satisfied my own personal bias and concerns. But the broad public is still not aware that the engineering reports recommend a low-pressure system.

The second question is cost. The majority of council has assured us that resident costs will be nominal. Reserves have been established over the past few years with Municipal Affairs indicating that “Crystal Springs officials demonstrated good stewardship by planning ahead for capital works and approving budgets that contained transfers to reserves in order to fund anticipated projects such as sewer line installation and road work.” Of course, those who have to replace their entire system may have a larger bill, but faulty systems would have to be replaced anyway – at the homeowner’s full cost.

The third question is “opting out.” For the sake of lake health, I hope people don’t, but it is council’s plan to make connections voluntary. However, a compulsory by-law is still in place and council needs to formalize the decision to rescind it.

In conclusion, in the interests of avoiding further divisions within the community, I would have to say that while it is time for those opposed to the sewer to “let it go,” it is also past time for council to make all the necessary decisions and to communicate fully with residents.

Arnold Moerth, Crystal Springs