A sewer connection to the Anmore Green Estates strata complex that would resolve its failing septic system is a step closer.
But it’s unlikely the pipe to a sewer hookup in Port Moody, just 60 metres away, will be in place when students at nearby Eagle Mountain middle school — whose grounds have been contaminated by leaching from the septic system — head back to school in September after summer vacation, said Juli Halliwell, Anmore’s chief administrative officer.
Halliwell said an amendment to the village’s official community plan that was adopted last Tuesday by village council is an important step in the process that will allow the sewer connection to happen. But there’s not enough time for other elements to be in place so an application can be submitted to the ministry of municipal affairs for the village to become a member of the Greater Vancouver Sewerage and Discharge District (GVS&DD), which administers sewer systems in the region.
Halliwell said a membership application would have to completed by April 15 for it to be reviewed and forwarded to the provincial cabinet to approve through an order in council before the legislature recesses for the summer.
And the village still hasn’t reached an agreement with Anmore Green’s strata on how it will pay for the GVS&DD membership.
“When Anmore becomes a member, the village is on the hook for those costs,” Halliwell said. “In this circumstance, council feels it is only fair the residents who are benefitting from the service to pay those fees.”
But Brandie Roberts, the vice-president of Anmore Green’s strata, said residents in the 51-unit complex have yet to receive a full accounting of what those fees might be.
“We cannot commit to untold financial risk,” she said, adding the strata’s residents have already committed to pay for the construction of the connection as well as its maintenance and annual flow charges to the city of Port Moody for using its sewer services.
Jason Smith, Anmore’s manager of development services, said GVS&DD membership levies are determined by actual use of the sewer system as well as a share of capital costs to pay for the expansion of the region’s sewer systems based on each community’s growth projections.
Roberts said that’s an unrealistic expectation to put upon the strata’s residents.
“They are telling us we will be charged for everything in perpetuity,” she said, adding a lawsuit filed by the strata last fall in B.C. Supreme Court to challenge the village’s downzoning of property above the septic fields has yet to receive a court date. She said the strata wants to be able to subdivide that property into 11 lots that can be developed to help pay some of the connection costs.
Halliwell said Anmore has done everything to put the pieces in place for a sewer connection, including reaching an agreement in principle with Port Moody for the hook-up and developing a plan for managing all the village’s liquid waste that is scheduled to come before council next Tuesday for submission to the Ministry of Environment by April 30.
That plan was mandated by the ministry when it issued a ministerial order to the village last August in order to expedite a solution to the ongoing leaks of water contaminated with E. coli and fecal coliform from Anmore Green’s septic fields that were first detected during routine tests at the base of the hillside near Eagle Mountain middle in September 2017. As a result of those tests, the ministry issued a pollution-abatement order to the strata in November 2017, and Anmore Green then erected steel blue fencing to prevent kids from accessing the area.
After a series of engineering reports concluded the only solution to prevent further leaks is a connection to a nearby sewer pipe, the strata and village began negotiations to make that happen but Halliwell said they bogged down over the Christmas season.
Roberts said the problem may be too complex for the village to resolve without help from higher levels of government.
“The village is a small municipality with limited knowledge and ability,” she said.
Halliwell concedes the issue has many layers but, she said, Anmore is doing everything in its capacity so regional and provincial authorities can take up the ball from there.
“When this first came up, I think it was thought the process was going to be a lot more straightforward,” she said. “The village is working as hard as we can to resolve this issue.”
4/18: clarified the nature of the order issued to the village of Anmore