Alta Lake residents demand action 

Municipality to conduct water testing in lake, waiting for infrastructure funds

The municipality will be doing a water quality test on Alta Lake after a push from residents on the last remaining septic tanks and fields in the resort.

"Something is wrong with our lake," said 50-year Whistler resident Florence Petersen at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Petersen lives on Alta Lake Road. When she first moved to Whistler the lake water was their drinking and cooking water, but not any more. The once clear bottom is no longer clear and snails are in abundance. She held aloft a galvanized metal chain link, which holds down her wharf. The corroded links need to be changed much more frequently than they used to, she said.

But the quality of the lake isn’t Petersen’s only concern.

At the heart of the issue is the fact that Whistler’s first homes are the last to be hooked up to the municipal sewer system.

Residents along Alta Lake Road are getting more and more frustrated that they are still living on septic tanks or fields – some of which are 60 years old.

Gay Cluer did not mince her words in addressing council Tuesday night, calling the situation "disgraceful" in that it has been allowed to continue for so many years.

She asked council what they were going to do about the lack of sewer line to the 40 homes on the west side of the lake. And she did not appear to be happy with the response.

Mayor Ken Melamed explained what Cluer already knew – that there is a funding formula to pay for the $3.24 million project.

The municipality will fund a portion of it, along with the residents, while relying on funding from provincial infrastructure grants to pay for the rest.

"The municipality is not prepared to fund it exclusively," said the mayor.

This was how the Emerald Estates residents paid for their $10 million sewer line in recent years. Infrastructure grants from the federal and provincial governments covered two-thirds of the project while the municipality and the residents split the remaining third. Each homeowner paid roughly $6,000 to be hooked up to the sewer system.

The mayor said the municipality couldn’t put the burden of the Alta Lake Road hook up on other taxpayers who have already paid for their own sewer hook ups.

The mayor also defended Alta Lake’s water. An 8-year-old limnology study revealed there was no evidence of sewage seeping into the lake.

"Based on the information we have today it suggests that the water quality is not being negatively impacted by the septic fields," he said later.

"Now, as I said, we’re committed to retesting that because they’re making allegations, but we can’t make an assumption based on the rate that a chain is rusting (that sewage is leaking into the water)."

Council has asked for a new study to update the earlier study.

The mayor also gave Cluer his promise to apply pressure to the provincial government for the infrastructure grant.

But, on Wednesday Cluer said residents left the council meeting feeling let down.

"We were disappointed that there was no positive feedback from the presentation as to when this project will be addressed," she said.

She was somewhat encouraged to hear that at the end of the meeting council considered addressing the issue with provincial ministers at October’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities Annual Convention. The UBCM convention provides an opportunity for municipalities to lobby the provincial ministers on certain issues.

In the meantime, municipal staff will monitor provincial websites and are expecting applications for infrastructure grants to be posted in the fall.

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