Anmore Green Estates has been given an extension by the Ministry of Environment to Friday to submit a pollution abatement plan for its failing septic field that may be leaching E. coli and fecal coliform to neighbouring properties near Eagle Mountain middle and Heritage Woods secondary schools. The plan was originally expected to be filed last Monday, after an initial deadline of Dec. 31, 2017 was also extended.
The order was issued when soil samples taken last Sept. 27 at eight sites showed high levels of E. coli and fecal coliform at three of them, moderate levels at four more and no detectable level at the other. David Karn, a spokesperson for the ministry said the sampling does not distinguish whether the contamination comes from human or animal waste.
Robert Boies, the president of Anmore Green’s strata council, said the report is very “extensive” and “technical."
Boies said the septic field has been an “ongoing issue” for years but since it fell out of compliance with ministry standards “five or six years” ago, the strata has been required to pay for regular soil testing and submit reports to the ministry. It was the results in one of those regular reports that triggered the ministry to issue its pollution abatement order.
As part of the order that also requires the strata to mitigate risks to public health, on Dec. 23 it erected steel fencing along the bottom of the hillside below the septic field, as well as bright yellow signs warning people to stay out. Students and staff at the two schools adjacent to the hillside have also been advised to respect the fencing.
Peter Chevrier, a spokesperson for School District 43, said the district has asked the Ministry of Environment for assistance in resolving the issue and is in contact with the city of Port Moody, the village of Anmore and Anmore Green representatives.
“We are waiting for the testing results commissioned by Anmore Green Estates to determine how we move forward,” Chevrier said in an email to The Tri-City News.
But a copy of the original agreement covering the sale of city of PoMo land to SD43 for the schools, obtained by The Tri-City News, showed the district was well aware of Anmore Green’s ongoing effluent problems, going back nearly two decades.
The contract and purchase of sale agreement between the city and SD43 dated Nov. 2, 2001 required both to agree that “there may be some septic effluent leachate from adjacent lands within the village of Anmore onto the property and the parties shall act reasonable and cooperate with each other to minimize and control and such problems.”
Boies said the only way to solve the septic problem is to hook the complex into Port Moody’s municipal sewer system about 50 metres away. He said the strata is willing to pay the $250,000 cost of the hookup and Port Moody Mayor Mike Clay has said allowing the connection is “the best solution.”
But Anmore Mayor John McEwen said he’s yet to be convinced the septic field is beyond repair and residents in the village aren’t interested in getting their properties off septic systems to become part of the Greater Vancouver Sewerage and Drainage District, which comes with an annual cost of $147,000.
Rick Glumac, the MLA for Port Moody-Coquitlam, said he’s monitoring the situation.
“I’m very concerned about any situation where there is a possibility of pollution affecting the health and safety of people or the environment,” Glumac said.
The Ministry’s Karn said if Anmore Green Estates doesn’t submit its plan in time, or if that plan doesn’t address the problem, the strata could be subject to “progressive enforcement” that could include fines or even a court conviction.