The Oliphant Water Plant Fiasco (Craig’s 3-6)

In the period 2002 to 2006 then-mayor Carl Noble pushed through council an 11.4 million dollar project which combined the eleven Sauble area water systems into four, one of the four being the Oliphant system (a.k.a. the Fiddlehead system).

In the decision process:

  • Much of the decision process was hidden.
  • Alternative solutions were not fairly considered, if at all.
  • The financial assessment of the chosen solution and the few alternatives was fraudulent.
  • The true capital and operating costs of the Oliphant upgrades were hidden.

Most of the capital and operating costs of the Oliphant system were illegally passed on to the users on the Foreman, Huron Woods, and Sauble school systems.

If not for the fraud, the problem could have been addressed far less expensively.

As a result of the fraud, all users on the Sauble Area systems got a capital bill of almost $7000, and monthly costs are now sky high.

In mid-2011 one resident asked for details on how capital and operating costs got so out of control, and was rudely told by then CAO Rhonda Cook that the town was not responsible and that the resident and her friends were in good part to blame for the high costs. Cook’s claim was preposterous.

Around the same time, in Council chambers, in an act of bullying, Councillor Turner launched a disparaging oral attack on that same resident, just for asking.

In late 2010 the Ministry of the Environment determined that the Fiddlehead water plant was not working properly, and as designed and constructed could not work properly, and that drinking water safety was an issue. As a temporary measure the plant was shut down and water for Oliphant users was trucked from Wiarton.

This left council with a decision of what to do for the longer term.

So how did council decide what to do?

Council just copied the Carl Noble process.

Council decided to upgrade the Fiddlehead plant.

The decision was made partly in closed meetings, away from the scrutiny of the public.

Council failed to consider alternatives, at least did not consider any in public.

Council failed to properly consider the financial impacts of their preferred solution, and did not consider financial impacts of alternatives at all (because no alternatives were really considered).

Council has decided to make all TSBP residents pay for 50% of the Fiddlehead system upgrade bills, which is illegal. The other 50% will be distributed to all Sauble System users, which is also illegal.

The only element present in the current process that was not in the Carl Noble process was the failure on the part of the current council to even consider suing the people (Genivar) who designed and built the Oliphant system that doesn’t work.

The decision process and the decision are an inexcusable affront to the Oliphant water users, to the Sauble area water system users, and to all of the people of the Town of South Bruce Peninsula.

How could council do that?

Because most members of council believe that they are above the law, and that they have no obligation to the people.

Their obligation to the people is to conduct an open and proper decision process.

Their obligation in law is to not bill taxpayers for capital upgrades for a system that they are not, and will not be, and cannot be, served by. (See Municipal Act section 391).

Council needs to make this right.


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5 Responses to The Oliphant Water Plant Fiasco (Craig’s 3-6)

  1. Zibis says:

    …and to make it right Council needs to sue whoever designed and constructed the facility to correct the deficiencies (Genivar?). This is a company that declared $23.1 million in profit for the last quarter of 2012, a 45% increase over the same quarter in the previous year. I’m wondering if this jump in profits is due to cutting too many corners?
    Keep pushing this issue Craig!

  2. Zibis says:

    Further to my previous comment, I need to correct an error. There is conflicting information on the web about which quarter their $23.1 Million profit declaration occurred. One site says it’s their first quarter while another says it’s their fourth quarter. I’m inclined to believe the report is for their fourth quarter (Sep-Dec. 2102). The error in my previous comment is my arithmetic is off. The increase represents a 231% jump in profits not the 45% I stated earlier. All the more reason to sue! They can afford it.

  3. David says:

    Has the water plant issue been resolved?

    • cgammie says:

      The expensive upgrade of about 2013 did not work. The plant is not operating. Water is being trucked from Wiarton for oliphant users. So the oliphant water issue has not been resolved.

      There is an item on council’s “unfinished business list”:

      Matters of Urgency – PW02-2017 Results of RFP for Fragmentation of Oliphant WFP (January 17, 2017)

      The project was supposed to be to find an alternative water source and decommission the Oliphant plant. But there is nothing happening and nothing will happen until at least 2018 as there is no money for the project in the 2017 budget.


      • David E. Johnson says:

        Thank you very much for the update. From: Craig Gammie’s CommentarySent: Saturday, May 6, 2017 3:56 PMTo: davidericjohnson@sympatico.caReply To: Craig Gammie’s CommentarySubject: [New comment] The Oliphant Water Plant Fiasco (Craig’s 3-6)

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        /* @media only screen and (max-device-width: 480px) { .post { min-width: 700px !important; } } */ cgammie commented: “The expensive upgrade of about 2013 did not work. The plant is not operating. Water is being trucked from Wiarton for oliphant users. So the oliphant water issue has not been resolved.

        There is an item on council’s “unfinished business list”:

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