By J.W. Schnarr
Johnson’s Addition residents waiting to hear what the Municipal District of Taber council has planned for their sewer, water, and drainage issues finally had a chance to hear more about the proposed projects and have their questions answered last week.
On May 26, more than 50 people packed a room at the Heritage Inn to hear about a number of issues pertaining to the locality.
Included in those issues were the sewer options currently proposed by the Town of Taber and by the M.D. of Taber and water issues with the Taber Irrigation District. Additionally, members of M.D. council were on hand to discuss the locality’s struggles to become a hamlet and a representative from Alberta Health services was there to discuss the health issues and benefits a communal sewer option would bring to the area.
Division 1 Coun. Merrill Harris said the locality has had a history of flooding In the past, and those floods can represent a health hazard if sewer systems are affected.
“In really rainy years, a lot of people had a lot of trouble with septic fields becoming saturated, and having liquid coming out of their tanks and into their back yards,” said Harris. “And that’s a health hazard. So we’re just trying to find a way to make it better.”
Harris said after being involved with the issue and weighing all the angles, he thinks Johnson’s Addition residents would benefit from some form of community septic system.
“I know in 2010 and 2011 it was really wet around here, and we had a lot of excess moisture,” he said. “A lot of people’s septic systems were failing because the ground was so saturated. Nobody wants that on their land, and nobody wants it in the river.”
“Health-wise, we had to at least look at doing something. In dry years, you might not have an issue. But in the wet years we’ve had, we’ve got an issue. For people’s own health and well-being, we had to look at this. Hopefully, it will be affordable. It would be great for the residents to have a better system than they have now.”
With a proper communal sewer in place, council has stated they could then look at providing water service to the area. As Johnson’s Addition is not considered a hamlet by the provincial government, funding can be hard to secure for infrastructure programs.
“We felt that, funding wise, we had to do this one first,” Harris said. “It would be great to do everything at once, but when you are not eligible for a lot of funding, that’s very expensive to do. It’s more than we or they could afford without some funding.”
Overall, Harris said he was pleased with the event and the turnout of concerned Johnson’s Addition residents especially.
“I was very pleased,” said Harris. “It was a fairly big turnout.” He added with 44 lots on the area, residents appeared to come out in solid numbers to hear more about the issues.
“I’d say we had a good amount of people out there tonight, which is encouraging,” said Harris.
“They’ve been reading it in the newspaper for the last 18 months, and weren’t sure what we were doing, there’s been a lot of curiosity. But without doing the studies and figuring out the costs, there really wasn’t a point in having an open house. Question number one is going to be about the costs.”
Following discussion, Reeve Brian Brewin asked for a quick show of hands from those in attendance to see how many residents would be interested in having the M.D. move forward with some sort of plan.
“There was enough hands go up that we feel like we’re doing the right thing here, and we’re going to keep pursuing it,” Harris said.
Sean Robison, a supervisor with the Lethbridge Service Area Environmental Public Health South Zone with Alberta Health Services, said AHS supports the initiative taken to try and provide a communal sewer service to the locality.
“From a health perspective, we’re very encouraged the M.D. is holding this open house and needs to be discussed,” he said. “If there’s anything that we can do in terms of a letter of support for the M.D. in terms of grant funding or anything like that, we are more than willing to do so.”
“Cut a cheque,” Brewin joked.