Pressure on for potable water solutions in Vaudreuil-Dorion
PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG
Hudson Acres, Tree Farm and Ritchie residents are frustrated with the delays in resolving the long-standing potable water in their area of Vaudreuil-Dorion.
Enjoying a glass full of cold, fresh, safe water from the faucet will remain a dream for residents in three areas of Vaudreuil-Dorion until 2018. That was the news contained in a letter dated August 30 from the town to the people living in the Hudson Acres, Tree Farm and Ritchie sectors that have been affected by water woes for years. The letter cites long delays in the approval process at the provincial level for the slow-down of a potable water project that will connect the sector to the city’s water supply system. Work that was originally estimated to begin before the end of 2017 is now slated for the spring or early summer of 2018. Vaudreuil-Dorion uses treated water from the Ottawa River as its main potable water supply.
Pressure from residents
“This is not normal that it should take so long,” said Lise Meloche a resident of one of the affected areas. For her and many others, the lack of potable water began in October 2013 when a Boil Water Advisory was issued. She and several other residents have been pressuring the city to speed up the process of installing a water main that will connect the area to the city water supply. A letter, circulated door-to-door by residents in the affected areas asked pointed questions regarding the situation.
“When will we have drinking water from our taps?” and “Why can’t we have confirmation of a specific start and end date of work?”
“The main problem is the amount of time it takes for certain (Quebec) government ministries to give us approval,” said Mayor Guy Pilon of the delays. “We have to remember that government employees are applying pressure. They have no intention of going faster,” he added. He said the city has to comply with different requirements from three ministries, the Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l’Occupation du territoire (MAMOT), the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MDDELCC), and the Ministère des Transports, de la Mobilité durable et de l’Électrification des transports (MTMDET).
“That is why we have moved from four to six to eight months,” he said. “That is something we cannot control and we are doing the best we can.”
According to the mayor, regulations recently put in place by the province also contribute to slowing the process. “It used to be that once you received approval from the government, it was okay. Now we need approval of the pre-plan, the plan, the submissions and the work. It’s about four different approvals and each one takes time,” said Pilon. The actual work of installing the water main is expected to take three months. When asked if the installation would affect the Route Harwood (Highway 342) repaving project, he said it would not. However, according to the information from the city, the aqueduct project does require construction on the highway right-of-way that is under provincial jurisdiction. This means that work methods used for the project have to be approved by the MTMDET.
The failure of the Ritchie well in 2015 came as a shock for Glyn Jones and his family. “We’ve only been living here for two years,” said Jones. “I remember that we asked our realtor about the boil water order for Hudson Acres and we were told our supply was good. Which was true,” he said adding that if a boil water advisory had been in place at the time, they wouldn’t have purchased the property.
When asked about the failure of the wells, Pilon replied, “It’s a well and it can happen in two hours, two weeks or two months. That’s why the government wants to reduce the number of wells in the province.” Pilon said that the city wanted to solve the problem by drilling a new well within 10 feet of the old one. “But we could not because there are so many obstructions. At the end of the day, what they want is for all of those people to be connected to the water from the town,” he said.
In November 2013, the city responded to the situation by distributing bottled water to the residents served by the Hudson Acres well. Testing and disinfection of the well fell under the purview of the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks (MDDEFP) who requested that the sampling process be suspended until after the spring thaw of 2014 as the ground was frozen. The Boil Water Advisory remained in effect as did the delivery of bottled water. In April of 2014, it was discovered that the well was seriously compromised.
Two possible solutions were presented in December 2014 to the residents: dig a new well or install a connecting pipe to the city water supply. The cost of a new well was estimated at $425,000 and the installation of the aqueduct connection at $2,000,000 without a grant from the provincial government.
Following a meeting with Hudson Acres residents in April 2015 to discuss possible solutions, the city conducted a survey and the result was heavily in favour of connecting to the municipal water system.
During 2015-2016, the residents affected by the failure of the Ritchie well were invited to join the project and the Quebec government granted financial assistance covering 50 per cent of the cost of the project.
“Some people have lived here for a long time and have been paying for the wells,” said Jones, adding, “They are not very happy about paying again.”
Cost of the project
“We don’t know what the actual cost of the project is,” said Meloche stating a concern of several residents. When asked about the cost, the mayor replied it depended upon the tenders received. The city must choose the lowest tender in compliance with provincial law. A second cost factor is the loan by-law for the project. The letter states that the final costs will only be known once the loan by-law is closed and the project is completed.
In Meloche’s opinion, the city should hold an information session for all of the residents of Hudson Acres, Tree Farm and Ritchie sectors. “There is a lot of information that we haven’t been given properly,” said Meloche.
“I refused to attend that meeting,” she said referring to an invitation from the city to two citizens to attend a meeting Tuesday, August 17, about the water situation. Her response was the meeting should have included everyone. She said the current response from the city is a pre-election promise that has a doubtful future.
“Once we have the final price and the final submissions, we will have a meeting,” said the mayor. “What they want to know is what it will cost them. At that point, we will have all the details and be able to tell them how much each one will have to pay.” Pilon emphasized the city’s response has nothing to do with the municipal election.
“Even if the process went as originally planned, it would have finished in early 2018,” he said. “If we could have done something earlier, we would have.”