Anmore digs in over septic issue

The village of Anmore is digging in its heels to not allow the Anmore Green Estates housing development to hook up to Port Moody’s sewer system. 

But residents of the 51-unit strata complex just inside the community’s borders say the village has been intransigent toward their efforts to resolve problems with its two septic fields that have leached E. coli and fecal coliform contamination on to a nearby school’s property.

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In a letter unanimously endorsed by Anmore council to Dan Bings, the operations manager of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy’s compliance section, the village’s chief administrative officer, Juli Halliwell, said such a connection is an “unrealistic solution” and the village has no interest in joining the Metro Vancouver Sewerage and Drainage District (MVS&DD), which administers municipal sewer systems and the cost of running them for all of Metro Vancouver.

Halliwell said the village will continue with its “longstanding position that all residents are responsible for treating their own sewage on-site” rather than require its residents to bear the cost of annual MVS&DD dues if the community is hooked into a sewer system.

But in a rebuttal letter addressed to Anmore Mayor John McEwen and council, the vice-president of Anmore Green’s strata council, Brandie Roberts, said the village’s position isn’t as “longstanding” as it’s made out to be.

Roberts said documents registered to Anmore Green’s lands when it was developed in the early 1990s indicate the village’s assumption that it would eventually have a municipal sewer system.

A clause in the strata’s statutory right of way agreement for utilities with the village obtained by The Tri-City News states the septic fields will no longer be required “once the lands are serviced by an operational community or public sewage treatment facility.” 

But in its revisions to its official community plan in 2014, the village adopted a policy that it “will not develop a municipal-wide sewer system.”

“This shift in position is important to recognize as the establishment of [Anmore Green Estates] predates this policy by more than 19 years,” Roberts said.

An engineering report commissioned by the strata as part of its obligation to address the problems with its septic system following a pollution abatement order issued last November by the environment ministry said the “only practical and feasible option” to stop the leaks that were first detected in soil tests last September is a connection to Port Moody’s sewer system just 60 metres away. The strata has said it will pay for that connection as well as bear any ongoing costs.

In April, the ministry requested a second engineering report to determine if the septic fields can at least be repaired or redesigned to standards that were in place before municipal wastewater regulations were revised in 2012. That report must be peer-reviewed by a third, independent, engineer before it’s submitted by May 23.

But Halliwell questions how independent that peer reviewer will be.

“The village feels strongly that the peer reviewer should be chosen by the Ministry of Environment and that the only role for representatives of AGE [Anmore Green Estates] is to respond to questions from the peer reviewer,” she said.

Meanwhile, parents of students attending Eagle Mountain middle and Heritage Woods secondary schools, whose properties adjoin Anmore Green’s septic fields, are growing increasingly frustrated at the time it’s taking to solve the problem.

At a special meeting of Eagle Mountain’s parent advisory council held in the school’s library last Tuesday — and attended by representatives from the ministry, School District 43, Anmore Green, its engineering company, Fraser Health and Port Moody-Coquitlam MLA Rick Glumac — PAC president Diane MacSporran said parents heard a lot about the process but few solutions.

“This needs to happen before the summer time,” she said. “We don’t want to be dealing with this in the fall when there are new children coming in.”

She said fencing erected to prevent access to a field next to the school where the contamination was detected is regularly breached by students taking shortcuts or looking for a place to play.

“The school does not have a playground and that site is our only option to give the kids a place to play,” she said.


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