Big Valley residents rail against water project | DrumhellerMail
Last updateFri, 12 Apr 2024 11am

Big Valley residents rail against water project

    A number of residents of Big Valley are saying no to hooking up to the Shirley McClellan Regional Water Services Commission.
    The village has been a member of the commission for a number of years. The project has completed its initial phase from Stettler to Consort with water taken from the Red Deer River and treated at the Stettler Water Treatment Plant. The next phase will serve Big Valley and surrounding areas.
    “Our main concern is that it is water from the Red Deer River,” said Big Valley resident Lynne Palmer. “They are treating it, of course, big time. We don’t know what they are treating it with.
    “We are not going to give up.”
    She said the village council made the decision to join the water services commission, and that residents did not have a chance to voice their concerns when they joined.
    Currently, the village has well water, and it is treated to serve residents. Palmer says they  have not had many problems with it.
    “We are fighting it because we want to keep our wells. We have lots of water and we are not having lots of problems,” said Palmer.
    A group of residents put together a petition to council to rescind its 2011 motion to connect to the Shirley McClellan Regional Water Services Commission. They garnered 189 signatures, however the petition was rejected.
    There was a meeting last week where representatives of the water commission met with Big Valley residents.
    “I don’t think there were very many who walked out of there feeling any different than they did when they went in,” said Palmer.
    The group is planning its next move.
    Shawna Benson, director of communications for the County of Stettler says this is the best opportunity for Big Valley to be a part of the program, especially because they were able to receive Water for Life funding, which covers 90 per cent of the project costs.
    “We are not sure how much longer that funding will be around,” said Benson.
    She said there are concerns about the quality and supply of water serving the Village of Big Valley.
    “Alberta Environment has expressed a real concern for Big Valley’s well water. It is in a very low marshy area and that water has to have had more disinfection put into it in order to bring it up to drinking water standard,” said Benson.
    She understands residents may also be concerned with cost of water for residents.  Users of the Kneehill Regional Water Services Commission have experienced water rates significantly higher than what they were anticipating.
    “They are looking at a price increase for their water. When we compared their current bills to what they are going to be paying, it is not a large increase, anywhere from a $15 to $30 (per month) increase, depending on how much water they use,” said Benson.
    “There is a concern that there is potential for the price of water to go up. We have put in place regulations in terms of what they can do to raise prices. We have used other water commissions like Kneehill as precautions for us so we can see what can happen when it is mismanaged.”
    Benson said the project is a good deal for the village.
    “The village needs to look at what its priorities are. The village itself sees us as a cost to them they cannot really afford, so I think that is where a lot of the fear is coming from. In reality, this is a Shirley McClellan Water Services Commission Project. The village is not paying a cent for it, aside from if they hook on to the water and use it, there is no capital cost to the village at all.”
    While there is no cost to the Village of Big Valley, Benson said there could be a cost if they did not join on.
    “Ultimately they can (pull out). The issue here is this waterline is not just for servicing the village, but it is also for the county’s rural residents. If the village were to pull out and we were to lose this opportunity, we could try to reapply to get the funding to go north to Donalda, but essentially our residents in this area would lose this opportunity. It could jeopardize more than the village.
    “There are consequences if the Village of Big Valley was to pull out now. They are committed as a part of the commission. If they were to pull out, we would have no choice but to charge the village for the cost  we have incurred for the planning of this line now. We engineered it, we aligned it, it is ready to go.”

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