• Hunter Cresswell

Something stinks in Chelsea

Residents mulls suit over sewage smell


Residents living to the south of the Chelsea sewage treatment plant are getting tired of pinching their noses and holding their tongues.


Chemin du Ravin couple, Jacques and Cindy Patenaude, say they have been dealing with the smell emanating from Chelsea’s wastewater and potable water treatment plant for years, which has made their home nearly unlivable and made them fear for their health and property value.


A Chemin du Ravin couple are trying to sell their luxury Chelsea home but say they haven’t even gotten one offer because of the smell of the sewage plant about 200 metres from their back property line. Photo courtesy Jacques Patenaude

They’ve hired a lawyer to sue the municipality, but their case is on hold for now, said Jacques. He added that his neighbours are considering a class action lawsuit against the municipality, and even their representative on Chelsea council expressed displeasure with how the issue is being handled.


“It is so bad that last summer from the month of May to the month of October we had to leave,” said Jacques. “We were unable to live here at all… A normal house has one septic tank for one house — we’re getting the septic effluent from the whole village in our backyard. Imagine the smell, it is so intense that you stop breathing. We’re actually concerned about our health.”


According to previous Low Down reports, the $23 million plant was first introduced in 2007 and people could hook up their homes to it in 2017. The line runs along Old Chelsea Road from Hwy 105 to Scott Road and up Scott Road to Chemin du Versant Sud. Chelsea held two sewer consultations on April 28 and 29, 2015, one for residents and one for business owners.


Jacques and his wife Cindy were at the meeting for residents.


“The mayor and the township decided to not allow anybody from our street and over toward Gatineau to vote on the issue because they knew that we were all against having this system in our backyard,” Jacques said. “The [Chelsea] mayor [Caryl Green] stood up and said, ‘Don’t worry, these systems don’t pollute and don’t smell, guaranteed.’”


But those same residents who couldn’t vote against the plant being built near their neighbourhoods nor hook up to the plant, still had to pay $500 on their tax bills to cover the cost of the project, Jacques said.


“It was a big, big shemozzle for all of us. Wow, we’re not allowed to vote, we have to pay for it and we have no say in the placement of it,” he said. “So what they did was place it about 200 metres from our lot line, 200 metres downwind.”


The couple first noticed the smell in 2018.


They wrote the municipality of Chelsea and Mayor Caryl Green multiple times that summer, but the smell stuck around all winter and into the spring.


“During a nice spring evening you want to sit outside...we couldn’t do that. So we shut everything and came inside. The smell seeped into the house to the point that we could not stay here,” Cindy said.


They finally got fed up and went to live in Luskville, while waiting for the smell to be addressed, and in 2020 they decided to sell the home.


“The real estate agent came and smelt it and said, ‘I can’t sell your house,’” Jacques said.


Despite knocking the price down from $1.5 million to $1.2 million, they haven’t gotten one offer. They’re required by law to declare the smell in the paperwork for their home sale.


They hired a lawyer in September 2020 to sue Chelsea over the loss of property value. The lawyer discovered that the municipality was already in litigation with companies involved in the sewer plant project.


“Premature corrosion has been detected on the equipment of the center-village wastewater treatment plant. The equipment has since been repaired, but the municipality is currently analyzing the source of the problem since it should not have happened five years after the construction of the plant. The municipality is therefore in litigation for the amounts involved in the repairs. Since this is a litigation matter, we will not comment further,” Chelsea communications officer Maude Prud’homme-Séguin wrote in an email when asked about the case.


For now the Patenaudes’ lawsuit hasn’t been filed with the court because they’re waiting for the municipality’s case to finish.


But in the opinion of Ward 1 councillor Simon Joubarne, this isn’t enough.


“You can’t always hide behind these things and not find a solution asap,” he said, while declining to comment on the specifics of the case.


Joubarne said the smell is affecting the lives of residents in his ward and must be fixed regardless of what stage in the legal process the municipality's case may be.


“I’ve inquired about it on multiple occasions and nothing is being done. I feel the municipality should contract a third party to find the real problem and solution,” he said.


Until that problem is fixed, Cindy and Jacques must deal with the smell, which seems to have been reduced to filling their home every two weeks for up to a day at a time.


“We’re getting the run around and we’re getting the sense that they don’t care,” Jacques said about the municipality.


The Pateneaudes are also concerned about the coming development along Old Chelsea Road which includes new development phases at Hendrick Farm, Lofts du Village and Chelsea Creek, and the ongoing construction of homes at Quartier Meredith.


“Where’s all that crap going to go?” Cindy asked. “I don’t even know if the Gatineau River can hold all that crap.”


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