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Puslinch council concerned residents may foot bill to protect city water supply

by Mike Robinson

ABERFOYLE - Puslinch councillors are concerned its residents may end up footing the bill to protect Guelph’s water supply.

City officials recently requested that Puslinch review proposed drinking water policies that will have to be implemented by the township to protect the city’s water supply.

The policies would make the township responsible for the inspection and documentation of septic systems, plus annual reports. The most densely populated area of Puslinch affected is that from Arkell Road north to the Eramosa River.

The policies also requested that the township ensure private wells no longer in use are abandoned/decommissioned according to Ontario regulations.

Councillor Wayne Stokley asked for clarification on what is considered an abandoned well.

“Is there a difference between abandoned wells and decommissioned wells?” His concern was the document only referred to abandoned wells.

Councillor Susan Fielding suggested if Guelph officials were following the same procedures as the Hamilton Source Water protection group, they are referring to the same thing.

Lever suspected the same, adding the only additional thing he’d heard was that abandoned wells had to be decommissioned.

Stokley too, believed that was the case, but had only sought the clarification. Lever anticipated township consultant Stan Denhoed, of Harden Environmental, would keep on top of the issue for council.

Councillor Ken Roth had concerns about the policies relating to the inspection of private sewage systems in the municipality. He believed that policy could cause considerable grief for the township.

“I mean, if we have to inspect private septic systems, it’s not just the cost, but we don’t have anyone qualified on staff. Does it mean we would have to hire someone?”

Roth anticipated there are quite a few private septic systems in Puslinch which would need to be inspected.

Clerk Brenda Law offered an draft estimate of 224 properties which would be affected by the proposed policies.

As a result, Roth believed the municipality should respond quickly to this correspondence from the city of Guelph. Fielding agreed.

“This is going to be a big issue [for many municipalities] about who is going to end up doing the work and paying for it,” Fielding said. “Other municipalities in Halton are very worried about it too.”

She added, “It certainly has been brought to the attention of the Ministry of the Environment.”

While the issues in Hamilton are not really going to affect much of Puslinch, the municipality will be affected overall because of its proximity to other source water protection areas.

“It’s going back to the MOE, which has made no financial commitment. There are lots of issues and concerns as to who is going to pay for all of this.”

While Fielding shared Roth’s concern, she did not see any answers at present.

Roth maintained the work required will be very expensive.

“We’d have to put our taxes up so high that everyone would move out of the township,” Roth said.

Fielding said, “It’s an issue affecting all municipalities - especially the rural ones.”

Lever agreed after reading the policies, of which he said one was a legal standing, the other was a request.

“But there appear to be quite a few costs with it,” the mayor said.

“While I would certainly like to see Guelph’s water system protected, I don’t think it should be at the expense of Puslinch taxpayers. I don’t think I’ll be supporting anything along those lines.”

He said that while the local municipality might put the programs in place, he would anticipate either the city or the province pay the cost, and not Puslinch residents.

Roth said there was only a short timeline for Puslinch to respond.

“I think we should get on this pretty quickly,” he said.

Fielding added, “This is not just a Puslinch problem, it’s a problem across the province.”



December 30, 2011


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