Students at Anmore’s Eagle Mountain middle school may get their hillside back in time for the next school year.
At its meeting Tuesday, Anmore village council approved a bylaw that will create a local service area for the middle school and nearby Anmore Green Estates (AGE) to allow construction of a sewer hookup from the 53-unit strata housing complex to a regional connection in Port Moody.
The village’s chief administrative officer, Juli Halliwell, said the bylaw could be adopted as soon as Feb. 18.
She added it’s “a significant step” toward ending the problem of sewage leaking from the homes’ failing septic system, which is located in a field just above the school.
After routine testing in September 2017 detected high levels of E. coli and fecal coliform in several locations at the base of the hill, the provincial Ministry of Environment issued a pollution-abatement order to the strata; as well, fencing was erected in December of that year to keep kids attending the school from accessing the contaminated area.
Since then, protracted negotiations involving several levels of government about the causes for the contamination and who will pay to repair it have kept the sewage percolating and the hillside off limits as a play area or shortcut to and from nearby homes.
Robert Boies of AGE’s strata said Anmore’s move brings the end within sight, and he’s optimistic construction can begin in August, with two weeks estimated for completion. He said while it has always been the strata’s position that it would cover the cost of building the connection, what those costs would be has been an ongoing bone of contention. Still to be resolved is a demand by School District 43 for compensation for its costs, including an ongoing easement if the connecting pipe runs beneath its property at Eagle Mountain middle.
In a statement, the district’s chief financial officer, Chris Nicolls, said SD43 wants written commitment that AGE will cover its costs before it signs off.
Boies said AGE needs certainty about the costs before it commits. But he added that he’s confident an agreement can be reached with the help of a facilitator who was appointed by the B.C. government last fall to help move all elements of the complicated process along.
Boies said that facilitator has been instrumental in getting consensus with Anmore and the Greater Vancouver Sewerage and Discharge District, which administers sewer systems throughout the region, as to what AGE’s costs and obligations will be.
“We were in no-man’s land, nobody would talk to us,” Boies said, adding he anticipates the final bill for getting the sewer hookup will come to about $1 million, or approximately $20,000 for each homeowner in the strata.
Diane MacSporran of Eagle Mountain's parent advisory council said she’s cautiously optimistic a solution is close.
“I’m not going to jinx it with a comment either way,” she told The Tri-City News. “I have to have hope for the health and safety of the children.”
And that’s what the whole issue is about, Boies said.
“It will be a relief when we see shovels in the ground and we have a permanent solution.”