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2013-12-02 at 23:38

'It is essential'

By Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com
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The city could open itself up to millions of dollars in lawsuits if it keeps operating a rural water delivery system its lawyer says but some on council say that’s just fear mongering.

For more than 25 years the city has been delivering water to some rural residents in city limits. When wells run dry or development changes water tables, people can have 4,000 litres delivered to their home for around $55. Around 120 homes used the service last year. During droughts that number has been as high as 900.

But city administration says the fee only covers about one-third of the program’s cost. It wants to see the city get out of the water hauling business by next year. That would save the city thousands and would also get Thunder Bay and its councillors out of any liability it could face through the province’s Safe Drinking Water Act. City solicitor Nadia Koltun told council that possible contamination issues and even damage to property when delivering the water would hold the city corporation and the entire council personally responsible. Any issue would result in millions of dollars a day in legal battles and even force individual councillors to get their own lawyers.

The legislation is the result of contaminated water in Walkerton that killed several people.

“This is not a common exposure for municipal councillors,” Koltun said of the legislation holding councillors personally liable. “It signals the seriousness with which the province of Ontario considers the issue of potable water at the municipal level.”

Coun. Trevor Giertuga, who represents the McIntyre ward, said the city faces legal action on a number of issues at any given time. In 25 years there has never been an issue with a system that is essential for some tax payers in the city. He also blamed development for forcing people who once had functioning wells to have to turn to the city to get their water.

“All these people that are out here at one point had water,” he said referring to a full gallery of spectators. “We’ve allowed development to continue in these areas where we know there are problems.”

The report suggested that people could find a private delivery service, dig other wells or use city-provided tap houses to fill up their own tanks. But several deputants, including Katherine Sertic said that's just not affordable. A mother of five, Sertic said her family has a water delivery every 10 days and that's with extreme conservation methods. Quotes from private companies have estimated that a similar amount be around $600 every month.

"I can't afford that, it would cripple my family," she said.

As for wells Anthony Tarsitano, who brought a petition with more than 250 signatures asking that the city continue the service, said some people he has spoken with have tried half a dozen times to dig a well for potable water. For some people it just isn't possible.

"Please do not cut off this lifeline to us," he said. "It is essential."

Other speakers pointed to the fact that rural residents pay taxes for things they don't use and it's not considered a subsidy. Henry Wojak said rural residents even pay for some sewer work.

"I hope you wrap your head around that," he said.

But Coun. Andrew Foulds said that water is rate supported, not tax supported. He wanted to know why if city residents were being asked to pay more for water every year, rural delivery rates hadn't risen too. Infrastructure manager Darrell Matson said council has been treating rural delivery as an exception when it comes to the rate. Tarsitano said they weren't opposed to paying more for the service.

"We honestly thought this was our fair share,” he said. 

Council was expected to make a decision on the matter Monday but due to some uncertainty voted to postpone the vote until more information comes back in the spring of 2014.

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woggy says:
4000 litres delivered for $55 bucks ! No wonder the program is losing money. Instead of cancelling the program , i'm sure the people who receive the water would except a fee increase @ these bargain prices !
12/3/2013 12:13:41 AM
jonthunder says:
I can appreciate the hardship some rural residents feel. However, the city does not put the same city infrastructure into those areas due to prohibitive costs. People moving to those high cost areas should know they are putting themselves at service/cost risk. The urban rate payers should not have to pay extra for someone's lifestyle cost. It seems that they are simply not paying high enough rates for water; and if the city legal counsel is correct the city ratepayers, and council are at increased health and safety risk for even providing water in this manner. Someone needs to make some tough decisions.
12/3/2013 7:07:00 AM
GregT says:
And yet as a semi-rural resident I do not have access to sewer services and yet help contribute to their upkeep. I do not have garbage or recycling pick up, and I pay for that service.

Keep in mind that many users of this service have had their wells run dry when the city permits a new development in adjacent property which disturbs the groundwater table.

Sign a waiver to mitigate risk, increase the price of the program so it is cost neutral. Problem solved.
12/3/2013 9:53:28 AM
jonnyrc says:
and for some strange reason all the people who pay city taxes that live close to one another all seem to subsidize your semi-rural roads, semi-rural infrastructure that costs much more than non-rural based on a person to land ratio, maybe we should stop allowing you to receive subsidize snow removal. I choose to live in the city because of the services provided by the taxes I pay. You want water, you pay for it. Water in Canada is NOT a right.
12/3/2013 11:39:03 AM
Baor says:
If you live within the city limits , and pay taxes to the city then you certainly do have garbage and recycle pick up.
12/3/2013 3:28:33 PM
conker2012 says:
Actually your MPAC assessment takes into consideration that you do not have sewer and water, so theoretically your taxes are lower to account for that factor.
12/3/2013 4:49:16 PM
Bondjames80 says:
Just like our fine city to try and cancel a program for people who pay full taxes with less benefits, while throwing buckets full of money at helping people who refuse to help themselves let alone others. I would be much happier spending $100,000 to get a taxpayer water than spending $100,000 giving a hopeless alcoholic wine and a bed. If we need to save $100,000 I say cut funding to the "wine house"
12/3/2013 7:37:28 AM
sky high says:
If you think the people who might lose their water service are any more worthy of being helped than a hopeless alcoholic, I feel extreme pity for you. And if you think alcoholics don't wish better things for themselves and would live differently than they are, I feel empathy for you. As for the water service, they should just pay their fair share and that's that. Keep if going.
12/3/2013 12:08:08 PM
Dockboy says:
Instead of just abandoning these people who rely on this service, increase the price. I don't understand this council, if there's never been a problem, why are you hiding under the new Safe Drinking Water Act. Afraid of legal battles, what a crock.
12/3/2013 8:41:36 AM
joey joe joe jr. shabadoo says:
Where are the priorities in this hick town?

It figures the city wants to bail on these taxpayers needing water, yet has no problems throwing monies away for useless art @ the marina plus free needles & free booze to those that wake up & start hunting for a fix instead of hunting for a job!
I cant believe city council on this at all!
12/3/2013 9:17:47 AM
TBDR says:
did you actually read the article, or just skim the headline and race for the comment section? Council never made a decision and at least two or three vocally disagreed with administration.
12/3/2013 11:54:30 AM
fastball says:
To all those people that are CONSTANTLY moaning about their tax bills increasing because of an events centre or some other facility being built - let's take a look at some other money-wasting programs that have been on the city books for decades now.
$55 dollars to deliver 4000 liters? That's probably not even enough to cover the fuel bill to truck the water out there! Basically, the city taxpayers are subsidizing that service with our tax dollars.
Bottom line - it's like moving into your own apartment, but asking everyone else to pay your bills.
12/3/2013 9:20:25 AM
minstrel says:
these residents pay taxes.
12/4/2013 12:59:53 PM
conker2012 says:
I would rather the city turn this into a for profit venture. Make the margin 10% to cover risk of damage or possible legal issues and completely cover the cost of the program. So if only 1/3 of the costs are covered than raise the cost to $165+10% or $182 per truck load. If they complain that it costs to much then ask them how much a new well would cost and see how fast they shut up.
12/3/2013 9:40:59 AM
Arch Stanton says:
In some cases at least, the issue is that people have re-developed rural properties which are now much bigger than their original dug-wells were ever intended to supply... a house full of showers, dishwashers, lawn-sprinklers, hot-tubs etc. In most cases, a proper drilled well / bore-hole and holding tank(s) can mitigate these effects. Yes, they are expensive, but MASSIVELY less than the real cost of $600/month for trucked water.
12/3/2013 10:01:29 AM
DougMyers says:
Interesting to note and add to the conversation that the city saw fit to extend water lines outside of the city limits so that Whitewater Golf course could have water.

As I understand it this is not just for drinking but also used for irrigation of the golf course. I stand to be corrected on this but this is my understanding.

Why is it the city extended lines to a company outside the city that is not even paying taxes but has an issue with residents within the city who do?
12/3/2013 10:11:28 AM
buzzerd says:
The water to White Water is for consumption only and not irrigation. The city has a problem with there own residents because they aren't paying for the service they are getting. For the residents using this service maybe it's time to invest in your house and have a proper well installed.
Greg T I don't know how you are paying for the upkeep of the sewers if you aren't paying a sewer charge on your water bill and also keep in mind that rural resident pay more because you population density is far less than in the city which causes the delivery of services to be far greater per capita.
12/3/2013 12:37:47 PM
conker2012 says:
They treat their own water.
12/3/2013 4:55:46 PM
iceman says:
I am out in the country, so maybe my opinion might count. If you live in the country you must drill for a well at your cost (price of living in tranquil setting) BUT if a development wrecks your well close to you, they should be stuck with the cost of fixing your well. City should be kept out of all of this except to make sure the developer pays. Problem solved. Just for reference well and water system $20 grand for those hoping to live in country, price of freedom, priceless
12/3/2013 11:02:51 AM
YellowSnow13 says:
So the city wants to collect the taxes and not provide the service. Run the lines or stop collecting taxes. Simple as that. If it costs the city, who cares. Water is more essential than a hockey arena.
12/3/2013 11:21:19 AM
woodzee says:
The city lawyer is correct about the legal issue. The City of Thunder Bay's water does not meet WHO guidelines for safe drinking water. It is contaminated with trihalomethanes among other toxic chemicals. So if the city wants to contaminate my groundwater in a rural zone I will be as offended if they poured diesel fuel all over my ground. I have not drank the city's water from the tap for over 40 years and only reluctantly use it for showers and laundry :-).
12/3/2013 11:25:41 AM
Blain says:
For all you constant whiners in this city, you are all free to move to another city if you dont like it here
12/3/2013 2:19:55 PM
Tbaylifer 1 says:
The liability, for servicing to the rural area with water, if contaminated and causes an illness in someone, is 6 million dollars per day for the municipality and then each councillor is also held personally responsible. Numerous checks must also be put in place to ensure there is no contamination. Guess who will foot the bill for this? Not just rural taxpayers. Right now there are only 120 homes purchasing the water. How many more in the future? 150 thousand dollars just for a new truck. As for services you believe your paying for and not getting. Your taxes are based on the value of your home and property. Not what services you get. Nice try though. I feel for you people but can't afford the risk.
12/3/2013 5:00:55 PM
Eastender says:
When you moved to a rural area dependant on well water, you took a chance. How is it the cities responsibility to keep you supplied with a tax subsidized water delivery service. There were no guarantees that there would be no future development. The onus is on you to have a water supply by paying the real cost or digging a deeper well. My suggestion is that you may have to reprioritize your spending, maybe forego that trip to Arizona, or buy a three year old used vehicle instead of a brand new high end suv, or gas guzzling truck. Use the savings to dig that new well. Use your imagination, I'm sure you probably can come up with even more imaginative ways to pay for an improved well.
12/4/2013 9:41:54 AM
The Beaver..... says:
@ Doug Myers The City waterline ended just across the street from Whitewater
at Broadway.The Developer paid for all costs from that point on. The residents pay 50 % more for water then the City Residents. Irrigation water for the Golf Course is taken from the Kam river
12/4/2013 11:41:57 AM
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