Pigeon Lake group says wastewater approach flawed

Pigeon LakeWise Society says some systems cheap for developers, less so for residents

Some residents around Pigeon Lake feel low-pressure wastewater systems aren’t the best way to go.

A lobbying organization in the Pigeon Lake area says that the regional approach to wastewater development is flawed, mostly because it doesn’t seem to take into account the wishes of residents, documented problems related low pressure wastewater systems and the $40 million dollars could be used for the lake.

The Pigeon LakeWise Society was represented at The Pipestone Flyer office Apr. 21 by Linda Kerr and Darlene Bouclin, both residents of Crystal Springs, and Dan Neil of Ma-me-o Beach.

Bouclin said, because of all the issues going on in the Pigeon lake area, including algae blooms and the various approaches to solving the wastewater problem, the founders of LakeWise wanted to develop a website that collected scientific evidence on wastewater systems.

Neil said other motivation included addressing what some lake residents feel has been a lack of public consultation and a lack of transparency when it comes to planning wastewater systems for the summer villages around the lake.

First and foremost, the group said they love the communities they live in. “We do care about the lake,” said Kerr.

However, the impetus for their website, an objective place for scientific evidence about wastewater systems, was needed.

Kerr said the group feels there are many serious issues about proposed “low pressure” wastewater systems that are being overlooked for whatever reasons.

The group stated it seems developers want to install low-pressure wastewater systems because they’re cheap to build, compared to gravity-operated systems. However, the low-pressure systems require expensive upkeep that will be passed on to taxpayers. They stated that the County of Wetaskiwin, after developments are completed, will pass all maintenance problems and costs over to the villages for property owners.

A point made by Neil, an engineer, was that low-pressure wastewater systems rely on water movement to keep things flowing, no pun intended. He said in the summer when villages are bustling, it may not be an issue. But in the winter months, when all villages have less than 15 per cent occupancy, the system may not have enough material to operate.

Another point Neil made is that the low-pressure wastewater systems have to be protected from freezing in the winter. Apparently this problem has occurred in other lake communities like Wolf Creek and Cadomin.

Lastly, a serious issue the group pointed out is the confusion surrounding what low-pressure wastewater systems cost; some community leaders have stated such systems may cost only a few thousand dollars. While the group stated they hope that’s true, Kerr said a sheet supplied by village CFO for On-Lot costs, who are planning the system, placed their costs at $1,200 plus landscaping if her newer tank is not cracked during the coring. The county minutes estimates are $19,000 for a complete system, including a new tank.

“No one can agree on the costs,” said Bouclin.

As many lake residents are retired, they live on a fixed income stated the LakeWise members, and paying up to $20,000 for a low-pressure wastewater system would be a hardship.

The group stated other municipalities appear to regret going with low-pressure wastewater systems. They have discovered a Canmore community went with them in the Eighties and a few years ago changed to gravity systems instead, abandoning the low-pressure systems.

Kerr said that disagreements around the lake about wastewater systems often end in one group labeling another. “If you speak up, you’re a naysayer,” said Kerr.

The group also stated that it’s not helping that some summer villages have the ability to opt out of programs, or stick with their old system entirely, while residents of other summer villages will have to pay. This could also affect the real estate market around the lake, as buyers could potentially face higher maintenance costs in some villages, lower or no costs in others.

Bouclin said wastewater is a serious issue around the lake that more residents should take seriously. “We think they think it’s a flush and forget,” said Bouclin.

LakeWise has applied for, but not yet received, its non-profit registration from the provincial government.

More information is available online at PigeonLakeWiseSociety.wordpress.com.

 

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