More time means more frustration for Eagle Mountain parents

Parents with children at Eagle Mountain middle school in Anmore are “beyond frustrated” by delays in resolving the leakage of contaminated water from a nearby septic field that services the Anmore Green Estates housing complex.

The latest is an extension granted to the village of Anmore by the Ministry of Environment to submit a plan to manage its liquid waste. That plan, which is required by a pollution-abatement order issued to the village by the ministry Aug. 17, was supposed to be ready by Nov. 30. But on Nov. 27, the Environment Minister George Heyman granted a request from Anmore’s council to extend the deadline. It is now due April 30, 2019.

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But he rejected Anmore’s desire to have the order rescinded altogether.

Diane MacSporran, the president of Eagle Mountain’s parent advisory committee, said she’s “disappointed but not surprised” by the ministry’s extension of its deadline.

“This long, drawn-out process does not reflect their ‘priority’ or ‘greatest concern’ to protect the students,” she said, referring to Heyman’s motivation to issue the abatement order to the village as a way to expedite a resolution following two engineering reports that affirmed the only way to ensure no further leakage from the septic fields is to hook the 51-unit strata complex into Port Moody’s sewer system less than 60 metres away.

At the time, the minister was critical of Anmore’s unwillingness to accommodate a resolution to the problem that first surfaced almost a year ago when the strata erected blue steel fencing on the school’s property to prevent kids from accessing the hillside field where water contaminated by E. coli and fecal coliform was detected during routine testing in Sept., 2017.

“The village has taken no significant actions to prevent or mitigate the risk of further pollution to the grounds of Eagle Mountain middle school,” he said.

But Anmore Mayor John McEwen said the village “has been working diligently to determine a resolution to the problem, despite our limited jurisdiction.”

In a letter sent to Heyman Nov. 21, McEwen said rescinding the pollution-abatement order or at least extending the deadline for the waste management plan would “acknowledge the efforts the village is making to resolve this matter.”

Monday, McEwen told The Tri-City News, “We do not feel that creating a liquid waste management plan is the most effective or efficient way to resolve the issues.”

He added Anmore village council would consider its next steps at a closed meeting scheduled for tonight (Tuesday).

All of Anmore is currently on septic systems, which, McEwen said, is part of the village’s semi-rural character that is affirmed in its official community plan. He said any change to that plan, such as hooking into a sewer system and becoming a member of the Greater Vancouver Sewerage and Discharge District, which administers sewer systems in the region, would require amending the OCP, a long, involved process with extensive public consultation.

McEwen said council has agreed to allow a sewer connection to the 51 properties that currently comprise Anmore Green Estates but only if the strata pays all the costs as well as ongoing fees and maintenance. He estimated those costs to be about $250,000 plus annual flow charges to the city of Port Moody of $10,000, increasing to $12,000 in five years.

But Brandie Roberts, the vice-president of Anmore Green’s strata, said that’s too much for homeowners to bear and, on Oct. 12, the strata filed suit in B.C. Supreme Court to compel the village to allow it to subdivide the property on top of a decommissioned septic field to allow 11 more homes to be built and help pay for the sewer connection. Oct. 19, the judge hearing the case rejected the strata’s petition for a quick decision and ordered a full hearing. A date for that has yet to be set.

Meanwhile, MacSporran said, parents remain skeptical.

“We find it absurd that we are approaching a year since high levels of E. coli and fecal coliform were detected,” she said, adding she has heard from parents whose kids play soccer at the nearby pitch that the smell of sewage can be noticeable at times.

“I wonder if the fences and the smells are our new reality.”

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