Is the 2005 Sauble Area Small Water Systems Debacle Repeating Itself? (8-1)

Around 2005 there was a project to bring a bunch of Town of South Bruce Peninsula small municipal water supply systems into compliance with Ontario law.

The Ontario environmental assessment process was used to select, from a range of alternatives, what to do.

Brad McRoberts, then TSBP manager of public works, commissioned the environmental assessments on the Sauble area systems.

But instead of letting the process lead to a choice of what to do, an alternative was selected and the assessment was rigged to support that selection. The selection was to combine the many small systems into just four systems (Sauble school, Oliphant, Huron Woods, Foreman) and upgrade.

There were at least two ways that the process was prejudiced.

Firstly, the costs were averaged for the four small systems, making the cost per user of the Oliphant, Huron Woods and Foreman (Chesley Lake) systems appear to be much lower than they really were, and making the costs of the Sauble system look higher than it really was.   This averaging was done for both capital and ongoing operating costs.

This was an inappropriate thing to do.   I believe that if the costs of the four systems had been kept separate in the decision process, the Foreman, Huron Woods and Oliphant upgrades would have been considered too expensive and the alternative solution of residents installing private systems and getting off the municipal systems would have been chosen instead. I believe that if costs had been properly portrayed, the systems would never have been upgraded as they were, as the costs were simply not feasible.

Secondly, there was an end run around the environmental assessment process.  The environmental assessment process requires that an adequate number of alternative solutions be carefully considered to cover the full range of possibilities.   That full range should have included residents installing private systems and getting off the municipal systems completely.  But the private systems solution was never considered seriously, if at all.  This too shut out the private systems option.

In my view the private systems option was eliminated because it did not fit with the agenda of then mayor Carl Noble to eventually install a TSBP- wide (or larger) water system.  The private systems option was incompatible with what was then dubbed the “big pipe dream”.

With the two deceptions Mr. McRoberts and Mr. Noble managed to get approval for their solution, (amalgamate several Sauble area systems into four upgraded municipal systems).  The result was a set of four systems, but at a price.

Here’s from the sun times June 22, 2010:

“People who own properties on the Foreman, Amabel-Sauble, Oliphant and Huron Woods water systems in South Bruce Peninsula will soon receive notices informing them they each owe the town somewhere between $9,441.223 and $12,270.86.”

If my memory is correct, the final capital bill was more like $8000 per residence, but that is still very high.

And the ongoing costs were and are also very high.

And the Oliphant system has never worked properly, even though lots of general taxpayers’ money has been poured into it.

The town is putting on a consultation Friday, July 6, 2018 at the Amabel-Sauble Community School, 3:00 pm to begin to address the issue of high costs of the Sauble area municipal water systems.

Current TSBP Chief Administrative Officer Brad McRoberts, the very person that around 2005  shuffled the obvious low cost solution (private systems) right off the alternatives list, and who bears much of the responsibility for the current high capital costs and high operating costs systems, is now coordinating an effort to get the costs down.

The private systems solution was put before council in the current term.  But Mayor Janice Jackson kept putting up obstacles, mainly by saying that going to private systems would require prohibitively costly environmental assessment processes, (that cost per assessment being estimated by previous manager of public works as in the $200,000 plus range).

The Mayor is wrong.  She has characterized the process of switching to private systems as “fragmentation” (which would require an expensive environmental assessment).  But in fact the process of switching to private systems is not “fragmentation” at all, and would not require expensive environmental systems.

I hope I am wrong, but my concern is that the solution of going to private water supplies and shutting down some or all of the Sauble area systems will once again not be seriously considered, and through deception and false “facts” will be eliminated, or already has been eliminated as an alternative,  just like it was eliminated around 2005.

I believe that CAO McRoberts and Mayor Jackson and her council supporters have an agenda, that being either to use taxpayers’ money to get developers to build adjacent to the areas supplied by the Sauble school system and supply them with the Sauble school system, or to force all Sauble residents to abandon their private supplies and get on the Sauble school system, or both.   The latter of course will increase water costs for those currently on private systems to several hundred or even thousands of dollars per year.

And because the Ministry of the environment will be reluctant to move Sauble residents from their private systems to municipal water systems unless a municipal sewage system is also installed, Sauble residents could be looking at not only being forced to get onto a costly municipal water supply system, but also being forced to get onto a municipal sewers system, at a capital cost of $40,000 to $100,000 per residence, and additional high monthly costs.

All residents of TSBP, and especially Sauble residents, should be very concerned about where things could be heading.

I encourage all to attend the meeting Friday July 7 and watch very carefully for any attempt to deceive.

Please pass this on to other TSBP residents, especially Sauble Beach residents.



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1 Response to Is the 2005 Sauble Area Small Water Systems Debacle Repeating Itself? (8-1)

  1. Ken Graham says:

    Hi Craig, I certainly agree with you that the water system solution was a complete disaster and Carl Noble is the reason that it was allowed to happen. I told Carl at the time that he was destroying Sauble Beach, but he wanted to do anything to get his big pipe. Our fate was sealed with Dalton McGuinty getting re-elected on the promise of I will get you clean water. You probably remember me chairing a meeting of all the small communal water systems and 95 to 98 % of the residents voted to set up their own private water systems at a cost of $600.00 rather than pursue the $10,700,000.00 system proposed. Even those costs promised were never kept. Where else in Ontario can you get a monthly water bill of $67.00 on an empty lot for not using any water?
    As far as separate billing for different water systems, I couldn’t agree more. The Huron Woods water system is the only one that could of sustained ridiculous costs, because I paid for the upgraded new water plant which combined the existing 4 pump houses. I did this for my future subdivisions and preserved the capacity to do so before I gave the system to the municipality.
    The height of stupidity is the several millions spent on the Oliphant subdivision. It reminds me of Dalton spending $1.2 Billion on a gas generating plant only to tear it down…,.,….Ken Graham

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