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Residents voicing concerns about water situation

A Turner Valley resident’s appeal of two water projects in her community will go in front of a provincial appeal board in January.
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A Turner Valley resident’s appeal of two water projects in her community will go in front of a provincial appeal board in January.

In the meantime, frustrations are growing among some residents over Roxanne Walsh’s appeal of a new water source for the town and proposed amendments to the Turner Valley water treatment plant due to her concerns about water quality.

The Environmental Appeals Board will bring Walsh’s concerns to a public hearing on Jan. 19 and 20.

In the last week, the board received three letters from residents regarding Walsh’s appeals.

Turner Valley resident Maureen Nelson said she agrees Walsh has the right to ask questions, however, she submitted a letter opposing the appeals due to her concerns about a single resident holding up a town project and her own confidence in the water quality.

Nelson said residents have no reason to be concerned about the drinking water in Turner Valley.

“It’s being monitored constantly,” she said. “It is probably the highest testing that’s done in Canada and it’s costing us an awful lot of money. I think it’s time to let the experts do what the experts do. I don’t see how there is any more that could be done.”

Walsh submitted the appeals earlier this year due to concerns about the quality of water coming from a newly-constructed infiltration gallery in the Sheep River because of its proximity to a former landfill site used by the gas plant for decades and 18 septic fields recently decommissioned in Calkins Place.

She is concerned the water has not been adequately reviewed or tested before it began operation earlier this summer and said a report conducted by Stantec Consulting in 2011 considers the area at high risk of contamination and pollutants.

Walsh wrote a letter to the editor in the Okotoks Western Wheel last month telling residents that if a lack of review of water produced near the plant and former landfill is not a concern to write the Town, Alberta Environment and the appeals board. She added if there is enough support she will consider withdrawing her appeals.

Walsh said she will base her decision to withdraw on the quality and quantity of the letters residents write.

In the meantime, she is awaiting environmental records related to the water treatment plant so she can complete her notice of appeal related to the plant.

“After that, hopefully we will know whether it will be included in the hearing in January,” she said.

Walsh also put in requests for documents regarding the infiltration gallery from various government agencies.

“What matters is that we have good water,” she said. “I’m not against anything, I’m for good water. I’m for kids having a healthy start to their future.”

Turner Valley resident Deb Godin is planning to submit a letter to the appeals board in opposition to Walsh’s appeals.

She collected four signatures from neighbours and friends and knows of others planning to submit their own letters.

“I trust the people we’ve put in place to make sure the water meets the standards and the testing that’s been done,” she said. “If the people that we’ve designated to make sure the water is safe are okay with it then I’m okay with it.”

Godin said she can understand why Walsh is concerned if she doesn’t have confidence in the system, but added many residents are angry about the ongoing appeals.

“I don’t think we really need to go that route,” she said. “If the water has been tested and they think it’s all fine that’s the end of it as far as I’m concerned. To pursue it further would be an unnecessary allotment of resources.”

Barry Williamson, Town of Turner Valley chief administrative officer, said the appeals have cost the Town approximately $100,000 in expenses so far.

“The money clock is ticking,” he said. “Because it is being pushed out and there has been more appeals around the various approvals all of that requires correspondence and time to deal with that as well.”

Williamson said the Town is proceeding to prepare its position for the hearing and will meet with its employees and engineers in October to go over questions that have been posed for the hearing.

“We’ll be doing a review of that every time we correspond with our lawyers and engineers,” she said.

Williamson said in an earlier interview with the Western Wheel that the Town has every confidence in the quality of its water and has no reason to believe it is unsafe.

Those wanting to submit letters can bring them to the Town office or email them to the Town at admin@turnervalley.ca or the appeals board at denise.black@gov.ab.ca.




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Tammy Rollie

About the Author: Tammy Rollie

Tammy Rollie is a staff reporter at OkotoksToday.ca and the Western Wheel newspaper, focusing on Wheel's West, local arts and culture and entertainment. For story tips contact trollie@okotoks.greatwest.ca
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