School District 43 is taking issue with a report that blames Anmore Green’s septic failure on the cutting of a slope to make way for Eagle Mountain middle school and a lack of effort on the district’s part to resolve the situation.
Chris Nicolls, SD43's chief financial officer and secretary treasurer, told The Tri-City News yesterday that the Jan. 19 report by Associated Environmental contains “inaccuracies” and wrongly lays blame on the school district when, in fact, the problem of contaminated effluent leaking onto SD43 property stems from Anmore Green’s inability to fix its septic field over a number of years.
“I think this is the responsibility of Anmore Green and not the school," Nicolls said. "The school district did take appropriate action to work with others to try to get them to step up."
The report states “dangerously high” levels of E. coli and fecal coliform were found in September — with some of the highest concentrations on a walkway between Eagle Mountain middle school and North Shore Community Park — and SD43 was informed.
It suggests that health concerns were known as early as 2013, before the school was built, and that cutting of the slope to make way for the school compromised the septic field, claims that are disputed by Nicolls, who said both the Ministry of Environment and the district’s environmental consultants signed off on school construction.
“We think there’s a number of inaccuracies in that report," Nicolls said. "Our information and our testing we did during construction in that school contradicts some of the comments in the report. Our site was signed off by the Ministry of Environment and all engineering reports said we had nothing to do with the failing septic field.”
He also disagreed with claims the district hindered Anmore Green from getting access to the school property to put up fencing in December, and says the district has taken all necessary steps to ensure student safety, including communicating with parents and students to stay away from the field.
(The report states that “collaboration and communication with SD43 representatives have not been forthcoming,” with FOI requests required to get information about site conditions, and requests to get access to the SD43 property to put up fencing under the Pollution Abatement Order delayed and heavily restricted, including the need for written permission and an $11,000 licence fee.)
Nicolls said SD43 put up its own temporary fencing when it learned of the health risks and will allow expanded fencing to be put up if required.
In the meantime, the report has also been sent to the school district’s consultants for review.
“We want to look to Anmore Green and the ministry to fix this. Knowing there are two schools there, we want our students’ health and safety to be a priority.”