By Vanessa Broadbent
Everyone is entitled to clean drinking water, or at least that’s what the residents of Angus Estates are advocating.
Angus Estates, which consists of 46 homes, is one of several areas in the village of Harrison Hot Springs that is on well water and does not have access to potable water.
Normally, well water isn’t all that bad. After adding a filter, sometimes it’s barely even noticeable that it’s not potable water. But this isn’t the case at Angus Estates and resident Eddy Arndt made sure council knew that at Monday’s meeting. With a presentation which included jar of brown, sludgy well water, another jar filled with cloudy tap water and a used filter, Arndt requested that council provide water to the residents of Angus Estates.
“This is 2016 and we should have water,” he said to council.
Arndt is one of 21 residents from Myng Crescent that signed a petition which “demand[ed] that the Village of Harrison Hot Springs supply high quality water to all the residents of the Village.”
While the water could be a potential health hazard to residents, the constant maintenance is an issue as well.
“I just moved in to this community,” Arndt said. “If I would have known that I would have to have an iron filter, two water filters and a filter for my fridge so that I can have clean water, I wouldn’t have bought into this.”
With each of these filters needing to be changed every other month, at $30 for each filter, it’s not an easy burden.
“It’s a constant maintenance problem that we’re going through and we’re paying taxes and we shouldn’t have to pay all this maintenance on our wells,” Arndt continued.
Arndt’s delegation was well received by council and while they acknowledged the need for potable water at Angus Estates, funding the project is easier said than done. But council has applied for a grant for a $3.6 million project which would provide the necessary funding.
The grant, which would consist of $1.2 million from both the federal government and the provincial government, as well is the village of Harrison Hot Springs, will fund a project which will see the replacement of the village’s supply return lines.
“We’ve been informed that the supply lines, the lines that run down from the reservoir to the station where the water is treated, need to be replaced,” mayor Leo Facio said. “They’re not up to earthquake standards and they need to be replaced.”
The second phase of the project will include providing potable water to Angus Estates, as well as replacing road surfaces, curbs and gutters. The third phase of the project includes providing water to other areas including Pine Avenue, Emerald Avenue and Diamond Street.
The grant won’t be council’s first attempt to improve the village’s water infrastructures. In 2013 a portion of a grant was approved which saw the construction of a new water treatment plant. But the $55,000 grant was not enough to expand water into areas such as Angus Estates.
At this point, Facio is unsure of if or when the current grant will be approved and when council can move forward with the project.
“We have got no idea,” he said. “It’s in the hands of the federal and provincial governments. We have our money ready and we’ll see what happens.”
Despite the need for project to move forward, chief administrative officer Madeline McDonald noted that doing so would jeopardize council’s eligibility for funding.
“Funds are not eligible for reimbursement if they’ve been spent before the grant is approved,” she said. “Unfortunately, the way these things are structured, we are forced to wait for approval before we move forward.”
Arndt isn’t the first resident of Angus Estates to advocate for potable water. According to Arndt, residents first delegated the issue to council 12 years ago and while he is pleased with council’s support, based on the success of previous delegations made by Angus Court residents, he is unsure of how genuine the support is.
“When we walked out I felt very sure that something was going to happen, but unfortunately, what I’m finding out is this is what [other residents] have heard every time they’ve gone in,” he explained. “Everyone is sympathetic, everyone endorses it, but no one does anything.”
While it’s not council’s decision whether or not they receive the necessary grants, Arndt noted that there are other avenues that council could take to fund the project.
“We get the sentiments that they give us, but they don’t do anything about it or put money aside,” he said. “Any municipality, any township, any district, any village, should be putting money away in a contingency fund to take care of emergencies and we haven’t done it.”
Arndt will be meeting with Chilliwack-Hope MLA Laurie Throness to request his support in advocating for the approval of the grant.
Councillor John Hansen supported Arndt’s decision to do so.
“This is terrible,” he said. “It’s absolutely horrible and a display like that going to the minister would just reinforce what we’re trying to do as well and the more people that are bombarded with this issue, the more likely we are to forge ahead and be successful.”
Should the grant request be unsuccessful, McDonald stated that council will still work to provide portable water to Angus Estates.
“We can return to the table and council can direct staff to go forward in the absence of a grant,” she said. “There would be ways of approaching the problem in a less extensive way. We would have to look at that when the time comes.”
While Arndt is still hopeful that the grant will be approved, he’s prepared to keep fighting if it’s not.
“We just started,” Arndt said. “You don’t just throw your hands up. We’ve just got to keep kicking at the can.”