’Burg residents against Lake Erie water

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An online petition has been launched against Stantec Consulting and the Chatham-Kent PUC.

The petition on change.org is calling for no Lake Erie water for Wallaceburg.

“After trying to get a Wallaceburg group to speak up about our ‘no choice’ options, and attempts at a letter-writing campaign to the consultants, I heard last week that a final decision was going to be made this coming week,” said Wallaceburg resident Henrie Timmers, who started the online petition. “I, and a lot of fellow Wallaceburg residents, did not like the idea that we had absolutely no input into the decision, and our questions were unanswered. That was the start of the online petition. We will be heard.”

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The Chatham-Kent PUC hired Stantec Consulting to conduct the Wallaceburg and Area Water Supply System Municipal Class Environmental Assessment.

After presenting in detail a series of options at a meeting on Nov. 26, which included rehabilitating the current Wallaceburg water treatment plant, Stantec’s “preferred alternative” was connecting to the Chatham water supply, which gets its water from Lake Erie.

Timmers said he was not impressed with the meeting.

“Instead of being asked for opinions or concerns, we were subjected to nearly an hour of ‘facts’ presented via PowerPoint while a representative read every line of a booklet we had already memorized during our wait,” Timmers said. “Five options were listed in the booklet we had read and heard repeated. The first, and least expensive was to repair our existing water system. The fifth option was to increase and improve our secondary source from Sarnia. Options two, three and four were just variations of how to get water from Lake Erie via Chatham.”

Timmers added: “Before we even had a chance to speak or give an opinion, we were told that options one and five had been ruled out by the consultants for reasons that still make no sense. It appeared the only options would be which roads the new line from Chatham would come from.”

Timmers said questions were not being answered at the meeting.

“Many people stood up to say they did not trust Lake Erie water, and more that said they didn’t want it,” he said. “All of these opinions were brushed off with technical doublespeak … confuse facts with rhetoric and opinions of the consultants.”

Timmers added: “This was not a meeting for input on options, opinions, concerns, etc. This was a lecture by the consultants and the C-K PUC to tell us what we were going to get. Questions about toxic algae bloom, mercury levels and general pollution downstream of Windsor and Detroit were brushed off as not of serious concern.”

Wallaceburg Coun. Jeff Wesley said he has not heard from anyone in favour of the consultants’ recommendation.

“I have yet to have a single person tell me they prefer Lake Erie,” he said. “Since the public meeting, every e-mail I have received is against Lake Erie.”

Wesley submitted a lengthy letter to Stantec explaining more concerns he has, including a lack of consultation with Walpole Island, and Chatham-Kent making a mistake by putting all of their “water eggs” in one basket.

Wallaceburg Coun. Carmen McGregor said she is hearing the same feedback in the community as Wesley.

“Everybody I talked to throughout the campaign, since the campaign and even since these meetings … I’ve not heard one person in Wallaceburg say they want water from Lake Erie,” she said. “I have not heard anyone say that that is the route to go.”

Karen Debergh, president of the Wallaceburg and District Chamber of Commerce, said rehabilitating the existing Wallaceburg Water Treatment Plant should be the way to go.

“In the short run, rehabilitating the existing building is a far less cost to the taxpayer, so many other factors can come into play over the next 40 years, it is hard to validate the future costs that were presented to us,” she said. “I have every confidence in Jeff and Carmen to bring the forward to council what is best for our community and surrounding area.”

Stantec and the PUC are set to meet next week to discuss the feedback received from the public.

“Stantec Consulting has done the technical and environmental reviews, but maybe there is something that is overlooked,” said Rob Bernardi, facilities and systems manager for the Chatham-Kent PUC. “So we have to take into consideration the public’s comments.”

Bernardi said there is a possibility that information from the feedback could alter the preferred recommendation from the consultants.

“Yes, because we do have to take into consideration the public comments,” Bernardi said. “So, it is not that they’re not looked at or forgotten. They do become part of the report as well. All the comments will be inserted into appendices of the environmental study report. They will be put on public display as well.”

Bernardi said no dates have been set for the final public consultation meeting.

Feedback is still being gathered as well, as people can contact one of these two individuals with your comments:

Andrew Galloway, engineering technologist, with the PUC at 519-436-0119, ext. 313; or andrewga@chatham-kent.ca.

Michele Oxlade, environmental co-ordinator for Stantec Consulting, 519-675-6652 or michele.oxlade@stantec.com.

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