Big Valley residents want to pull plug on water project

A group of Big Valley residents want to pull the plug on a $6-million project to pipe water into the community.

A group of Big Valley residents want to pull the plug on a $6-million project to pipe water into the community.

Phyllis Garrison, a resident in the village of 350, said a majority of residents are happy with the water they get from three wells and see no need for the water line.

“We have very good water. It’s very soft,” said Garrison.

Residents are also concerned they will see a big hike in their water bills if the line is built. As well, residents could face extra costs because they will need to pay for water softeners, filters and meters, she said.

To show their opposition, a group of residents circulated a pair of petitions, which showed a vast majority of residents opposed the line.

However, the petitions were not accepted as official by the village’s chief administrative officer.

A public meeting with representatives of the Shirley McClellan Regional Water Services Commission took place in the village on Thursday and drew about 40 residents.

The commission argued that the community’s water needs improving and the community was identified as a priority for tapping into the regional water line, but Garrison said residents remain unconvinced.

“It’s sort of like they’re saying ours is the best and everything else is no good.”

Many residents are concerned there are more contaminants that will need treating in the river water that feeds the line than in the existing supply from underground aquifers.

Garrison said residents plan to distribute a third petition calling for the project to be dropped. It will be sent to the province, the commission and council.

“We’re not going to stop. They know that. We’ve said they haven’t convinced us this is right.”

Commission administrator Tim Fox said when the 16-member municipality commission was formed several years ago priorities were established for water projects. The first phase created a water line from Stettler to Consort.

The second priority agreed on was to establish links to Donalda and Big Valley, which was supported by the villages at the time.

Provincial funding was sought and this spring $5.6 million granted to build the Big Valley line, which would be completed next summer.

Fox said the water supplied by the line exceeds all provincial standards and the Stettler water treatment plant recently underwent a multi-million dollar upgrade.

In a commission video that has been posted on YouTube, an Alberta Environment spokesman says concerns were raised by the department about the location of the village’s wells in a low, marshy area. That may mean “enhanced treatment” would be required in the future.

Fox said whether the line goes ahead will depend on the village’s council.

But dropping the project would require working out a number of issues, such as what to do with the provincial money. The village’s commitments as a member of the commission will also remain.

— copyright Red Deer Advocate