Discussion continues on Wallaceburg water issue

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The W.P. Moynihan Water Treatment Centre on Mason Street in Wallaceburg where that community’s drinking water has been filtered for decades may be closed if a municipal consulting firm gets its way. The firm has recommended the municipality not proceed with a $3.4 million upgrade and instead spend between $12 million and $20 million to extend a line from Chatham or Dresden.
The W.P. Moynihan Water Treatment Centre on Mason Street in Wallaceburg where that community’s drinking water has been filtered for decades may be closed if a municipal consulting firm gets its way. The firm has recommended the municipality not proceed with a $3.4 million upgrade and instead spend between $12 million and $20 million to extend a line from Chatham or Dresden.

An intense six-hour meeting into the future of Wallaceburg’s water supply left a positive impression in the mind of Councillor Jeff Wesley.

Wesley described the meeting as productive with “everything on the table” concerning the contentious issue which flared in June during a public meeting about whether to mothball the Patrick W Moynihan Water Treatment Plant in favour of a pipeline from Chatham.

Chatham Mazda from Chatham Voice on Vimeo.

Following that meeting, the Public Utilities Commission formed an eight member sub-committee to examine the issue.

The committee includes Wesley and fellow Wallaceburg councillor Carmen McGregor, Wallaceburg area resident and environmental consultant Kris Lee and Wallaceburg Business Improvement Association representative Mike McCarron, as well as two PUC employees and two employees of Stantec, the consulting firm which developed the options.

“There were no decisions made,” Wesley said. “We had an excellent discussion. It was honest and open.”

The Wallaceburg councillor said the eight committee members completed an individual and independent evaluation matrix designed to take each part of the issue and evaluate and apply a numeric value to it.

He said he was impressed that the issue of public opinion and input was ranked highest among all factors.

“That indicates to me that the consultants and the Public Utilities Commission know that water service is about people, not corporations,” he said.

PUC General Manager Tim Sunderland said the organization has gone above and beyond any mandated public consultation to make sure the options are well understood.

“We can’t have a motion based only on emotion but we realize the public needs to have a voice in the process,” he said. “Members of the public use the utility and ultimately pay for it so of course they must be fully involved.”

He said the environmental due diligence required by the province is being done.

“We are bound to ensure all options,” he said.

Much of the controversy surrounding the project comes from concerns that the quality of Lake Erie water to be piped in from Chatham is lesser than what is available now from the Wallaceburg system that has its intake on the Snye River, a direct outflow from Lake Huron.

A group, Say No to Lake Erie Water, collected names on petitions and formed a Facebook group opposing the pipeline option.

The committee will meet again Jan. 14 to discuss results of the matrix and next steps.

“We may come to a decision on the 14th or we may find out we’re deadlocked or need more information,” Wesley said. “We’re not going to rush this so if it turns out we need more information we will take the time to get it. The public will be informed as to every step we take.”

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