Tbnewswatch Local News
2014-05-13 at 11:54AM

Liability concerns: council ends rural water delivery services

FILE -- Coun. Trevor Giertuga wanted the city to continue its water delivery service to rural residents.
FILE -- Coun. Trevor Giertuga wanted the city to continue its water delivery service to rural residents.
By Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com

THUNDER BAY -- The city is getting out of water delivery over liability fears.

For more than 25 years the city has been delivering water to some rural residents living within city limits.

When wells run dry or development changes water tables, people can have 4,000 litres delivered to their home for about $55. Around 120 homes used the service last year. During droughts that number has been as high as 900.

Council voted to end the service Monday as of July but not before McIntyre ward Coun. Trevor Giertuga and mayor Keith Hobbs fought to keep the service, saying water is a basic human right.

Giertuga said the city has done its due diligence for years and would continue to do so.

While councillors could be personally liable for water under the province's Safe Drinking Water Act, that law has already been in place for more than a year without issue.

"This is fear mongering at its finest," he said.

Hobbs said liability isn't as much of a concern to him as making sure citizens have water.

"We've been in this business a long time and there's never been an issue of contamination,” he said.

But keeping the service would mean a new bylaw, including home inspections and water sampling city lawyer Nadia Koltun said. That would cost the city $400,000 in one-time capital costs and up to $205,000 a year to operate. 

Coun. Mark Bentz said the risk was too great for the city to keep the service. Council needs to look out for everyone, not just the people who use the service.

"I can’t in good conscience put that amount of liability on the taxpayers we’re here to protect all citizens,” he said.

A report will come to council next year and a rebate will be given to those who use the service over the next three years to offset costs for using a private service.



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