Let's talk water
Since May long weekend of this year, there has been something strange going on with the water system at Lottie Lake. I personally noticed it when I ran a bath one morning and realized the water looked oddly yellow.
Since then, I have been covering the issue, since I often sit in County of St. Paul council meetings at least once a month. As a journalist, covering an issue that is somewhat personal can have its challenges. First and foremost though, I believe itís important to write stories with an unbiased point of view.
Despite the challenge in keeping my personal view out of the issue, it is a bonus to be able to sit through meetings and understand the issue from both sides. But, I will admit, it is still frustrating that after five months, the problem as to why water in Lottie Lake is mysteriously disappearing has yet to be discovered.
County of St. Paul council is clearly concerned; some councillors are concerned for the residents, while others are simply concerned about finances Ė both are legitimate, and I am concerned about both of these issues too.
Right now, the county is footing the bill to supply water to the hamlet, which in turn means each county ratepayer is helping out since it is our taxes that allow the county to continue hauling water to Lottie Lake. So, Iíd like to say thank you - to each of the ratepayers out there who has been following this story Ė thank you for allowing me to wash my dishes, clean my clothes, bathe my kids, and continue to have running water in my home, something that I, and Iím sure many people, often take for granted in this prosperous country.
There have also been questions regarding the quality of the water that runs through the pipes, questions I hope can be cleared up soon. The county affirms the water is passing all necessary tests, but some residents continue to experience sediment and a filmy substance on the water that comes through their taps. Personally, I have run a bath and noticed the amount of sand or dirt (Iím honestly not sure what it is exactly) left when I drained the water, knowing full well that I hadnít been trekking through a dusty field that day. Iíve also seen cups of coffee made with the water, with an oily looking substance floating on top.
It certainly worries me to see this type of residue in the water since I have a two-year-old who drinks more water in the bath than he uses to wash himself. But, in the end, the issue is not about just the residents or just finances. Itís about finding a suitable balance between ensuring residents at Lottie Lake (and eventually Ashmont and Mallaig) have safe water, while keeping the bulk of the financial burden off the rest of the countyís residents.
I wouldnít mind if some of my taxes went toward supporting a water system that is already in place, even if I didnít live at Lottie Lake. I, along with every other resident in Lottie Lake, purchased our lake lot knowing there was an operating water system in place and we pay property taxes that should reflect that service.
I think itís completely unreasonable to simply turn off a system, just as itís unreasonable for each resident to dig a well or haul water when most people only have about one acre of land. If we all decided to haul our own water, Iím sure the county would be spending just as much money repairing the roads destroyed by the heavy trucks constantly coming in and out of the area.
But, itís also unreasonable for residents to be paying such measly water bills. My most recent water bill from the county was $20, and the month before was just over $40. I would gladly pay double that (and then some) each month to ensure the water system was adequate and could be repaired when needed. But, paying $10,000 straight out of my pocket for a tax to repair a distribution system that is possibly failing (the problem has yet to be discovered, so one canít be sure if this would solve the issue) isnít something with which I would agree.
No matter what happens, the only way to move on from the current situation is to find out the source of this mysterious leak. A waterline is already in the ground to bring water from Ashmont, so the amount of water at the current well will no longer be an issue and the costs of hauling water should be avoided. However, the quality issue will most likely remain and will be addressed as water testing at a pilot treatment plan in Ashmont progresses.
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