Chelsea, Quebec chooses sewage over water for creek

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by admin on November 11, 2010

Chelsea, Quebec council resolution nixes drawing water from Chelsea Creek

Chelsea, Quebec council has flushed away plans by a water co-operative to draw water from Chelsea Creek in favour of potential plans to use the creek as a sewer system.

At the Nov. 1 meeting, council passed a resolution stating it will not allow the Chelsea Water Distribution Solidarity Co-operative to draw drinking water from Chelsea Creek. Instead, council foresees a sewage system that will use the use the creek for its overflow chamber.

“You don’t need a PhD in running water ecology to realize that if you throw in raw sewage, it’s going to taint the stream,” said Antoine Morin, biology professor at the University of Ottawa and supporting member of the water co-op.

Mayor Caryl Green says an overflow chamber is necessary in a municipal sewage system. In Chelsea’s case, it would flow to the creek.

“Hopefully, that will never happen,” she says. But “there has to be an overflow and, if that happens, the overflow would be in Chelsea Creek and not in people’s basements.”

But for a town that prides itself on sustainability, this proposed system does not reflect its environmental values, says Ottawa Riverkeeper Meredith Brown.

“I think it’s selfish,” she says. “They’re looking at their own self-interest and I, frankly, think it’s quite embarrassing for the town of Chelsea.”

Both Brown and Morin see the co-op as a sustainable alternative to a municipal sewage system that draws water from the Gatineau River.

The water co-op was co-founded by the Common Ground developers as a means of supplying water to their future residents. Under this system, they would draw two per cent of the water flow from the creek. According to the Quebec Environment Ministry, water systems can draw up to 20 per cent drought flow from a water course.

In an Oct. 7, 2008 letter to Common Ground, the Quebec Environment Ministry stated that the province has no problem with plans to draw two per cent of the drought flow from Chelsea Creek. But any proposed water system needs the municipality’s permission first. The Nov. 1 resolution prevents the water co-op from installing its system.

“We prefer that it be dealt by, and managed by a municipal body rather than a co-op to ensure the long-term use of it,” says Green.

This is not accurate, insists Common Ground developer Sean McAdam, who takes issue with council’s reasons for disallowing the draw from the creek.

“Each of their four points are either wrong or offensive,” he says. For example, an outlined point states that Chelsea Creek is not a reliable water source because of “its slow water flow.”

“This is absolutely illogical,” says Morin, who has studied Ottawa-area creeks for over 20 years. “It does not make any sense. Slow water flow relates to speed and not to the volume.”

Coun. Edmond Hetu, who had the only vote against the Nov. 1 resolution, says he so far has not seen any issue with water co-ops as a source.

“It’s a bit presumptuous of us to second-guess the ministry that is responsible for overseeing that particular resource,” he later told the Low Down.

“I haven’t seen any evidence that there are any significant problems, historically, with co-ops,” he added.

In the meantime, Green says she has asked for a meeting with the water co-op founding members.