Emerald residents upset about sewer delay
Holding tank tipping fees to be examined by council
By Andy Stonehouse
A group of Emerald Estates residents are hoping to get the message to Whistler council that the longer the Emerald sewer extension is delayed, the more out-of-pocket costs they will continue to face.
After receiving almost half a dozen letters from Emerald property owners, councillors say they simply didn't know how much it was costing many residents to handle their own sewage disposal costs.
They were, however, unable to make a commitment to offset those costs or to complete the multi-million dollar sewer extension project more quickly than planned.
While a sewer main along Highway 99 and Green Lake now connects those few houses that were on Emerald's old sewage treatment plant with the larger Whistler system, it could take another three to four years to hook the remaining Emerald homes to the new sewer conduit.
One letter, submitted by 20 Emerald families with holding tanks, requests formal relief from the $25 tipping fee charged each time they are required to empty their tanks — service which is required as frequently as twice a month.
The tipping fee comes in addition to the $150 fee charged by Carney's Waste Systems each time they pump an owner's tanks, resulting in annual costs of almost $4,000.
Residents say they would like to see the tipping fee completely eradicated, or instead pay a fee equivalent to the sewer and water taxes paid by other Whistler residents already on the system.
Mayor Hugh O'Reilly said he understands the concerns residents have about the fees, but suggests that an end is in sight for the problem. But he said he thinks modifying the Emerald tipping fees might set the wrong precedent for waste handling costs.
John Nelson, director of public works, said the holding tank issue goes back to 1988, when property owners hoping to build along Emerald Drive were forced to install the tanks as a condition of construction.
The ministry of health refused to issue ground disposal permits in the area and the result was about 20 households with holding tanks.
Nelson said the installation of the new forcemain pipe along Highway 99 has allowed the old Emerald substation to be converted into a lift system, pumping sewage into the larger Whistler system. Approximately 40 homes connected to the old Emerald treatment plant benefited from the new connection.
As a result of the new connection, waste disposal trucks should also be able to pump out their tanks at the substation in Emerald, rather than the long drive out to the treatment plant in Function Junction. This may also cut costs for Emerald's holding tank owners.
Nelson said a completion date for the full sewer system still depends on the wishes of council, especially as they consider the community's long-term capital plan this summer.
"The draft capital plan indicates that the design work would be done in the year 2000 and construction in 2001 or 2002, but that's uncertain," Nelson said.