Harrietsfield residents ‘angry’ over option to pay $26,000 per household for clean water

About 12 residents from Harrietsfield, N.S., attended a meeting at City Hall on Aug. 9 to discuss solutions to the contaminated drinking water in the community.

They were met with officials from five city departments, including Halifax Water, Finance and Infrastructure Planning.

“We all showed up expecting something positive,” said Marlene Brown, a resident who has been leading the fight for clean water in the past six years.

The five city departments suggested the installation of a water pipe system that would cost $21 million.

But residents would have to pay $26,000 to $27,000 from their own pockets to run the pipe past their homes. It would also cost residents an extra $5,000 to bring the pipe right up to their residence.

“Many of us have been going to the local church to get bottles of water to fill up our water jugs, so if we can’t afford buying water, how would we afford this?” Brown said.

She said residents have been told that the federal government has agreed to pay 40 per cent of the $21 million cost, the provincial government 33 per cent and, if HRM agrees to contribute, then they’ll pay 27 per cent of the total cost, but that doesn’t change the fact that residents will still have to pay the $26,000 or more.

“It’s not cheap,” said District 11 Councillor Stephen Adams, who invited Brown to the meeting. For that reason, he said, the city departments are looking into alternatives, such as a cistern system, which stores the water needed for a household in a large container, or wells.

“If people who would be required to pay are unwilling or unable to do so then that option is not going to move forward.”

Adams said city departments are also open to suggestions from residents.

“The only positive thing about the whole meeting is that people are hearing a voice, and that voice is very angry, but it’s better than no voice at all,” said Brown.

She said residents are already brainstorming ideas for what kind of water system they should have, with some finding a cistern system a good option if the costs are lower.

Water trouble, which began in 1981, isn’t new to the area. Residents were given a court order at that time to stop drinking their water due to uranium contamination caused by Nova Scotia uranium exploration.

A DM Recycling site in Harrietsfield was also shut down years later after it leached contaminants into the groundwater, reaching the wells of nearby homes.

Brown said that the community is “strong” and will continue to demand clean safe water.

A survey or questionnaire will also be given out to residents in the near future to weigh in on the available options, according to Adams. 

-With files from Global’s Alexander Quon

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