Water, Water Everywhere
By Kirk Winter
There are few things that unite citizens of CKL more than the issue of water. Those residents who are hooked up to one of the 21 municipal water and sewage systems have spoken often of the surprisingly high costs they are asked to endure, and the questionable tasting product that sometimes comes out of their taps.
During a wide-ranging interview with Mayor Letham, we drilled down on the water issue, and this is what we learned about an issue that the City struggles with on a daily basis.
Since amalgamation, the City has basically had to replace its water and sewer infrastructure to meet the stringent health and safety guidelines that became law after the Walkerton water crisis of the last decade.
The City has taken on a $46 million debt, exclusive to water and sewage, as the systems they inherited have been upgraded to meet Provincial standards.
With 75,000 residents in the City, most are on wells and septics, or pump from a myriad of lakes that blanket the City. Lindsay and Bobcaygeon are the only two systems where there is a critical mass of population to make the water and sewer systems cost effective. The other 19 systems are spread over the rest of the City and service so few people in any one location that if they were free-standing single systems, local users would be paying close to $8,000 for the privilege of having water and sewer for a year.
Mayor Letham made it clear that costs are shared across the county, and that Lindsay water and sewer users subsidize others in CKL whose systems could never pay for themselves.
Readers of The Kawartha Promoter have shared with me that in Lindsay this fall the water has appeared to be unusually chlorinated. I noticed myself when I refilled our hot tub last month from our garden hose. When I tested the water before adding chemicals, the chlorine portion of my testing strip indicated an excess of the chemical present. We can certainly smell it in the North Ward every time we run the water, or flush the toilet. Mayor Letham was surprised by my question, and promised to get some answers from the Water Board for me sooner than later.
As part of her budget overview at the Special Council meeting on December 13, Jennifer Stouver shared with Council that water and sewer rates for an average home hooked up to the municipal systems would see a $40 a year increase for water and sewage in the 2019 calendar year. Stouver also stated that over the next four to five years, they are looking at a plan to upgrade water meters across the City.
Mayor Letham questioned Stouver about the rising costs, and wondered if there was any way increases could be better managed, without compromising the very high standards for water and sewage demanded by the Province.
Stouver responded that lower rates were very difficult to create in a municipality with “big geography” and houses on the system sometimes split by kilometres. The cost of vigilant testing in 21 far-flung locations is also an issue most other “cities” do not have to deal with.
Stouver promised to report back to the Mayor at the January 15, 2019 Council meeting as to what staff has discovered.