Rothesay apartment owners battle with town over switch to municipal water system

There’s a water fight happening in Rothesay, N.B. between the town and owners of apartment buildings that use well water.

The town recently passed a new by-law requiring all apartment buildings to hook up to the municipal water system within the next three years. It’s been mandatory for all new apartment construction since 2004, but several older buildings are still using well water.

The mayor says it’s a public health and testing concern.

“Yes it’s done periodically by apartment owners but the tests are only as good as the day they’re done on and the town does operate a water utility under strict control of the province with 24-7 treatment and control,” said Nancy Grant.

Mark Hatfield is one of the owners of the well water-using buildings in question. He says there are 10 owners in the town whose units use well water and doesn’t feel the changes are needed

“There’s 75 per cent of the residents of Rothesay on wells currently,” said Hatfield, owner of Property Star Inc. “[The the town is] telling us that this is a health and safety concern. Are you telling the entire residents of Rothesay that it is?”

Grant says the real issue with the apartment buildings is the number of people living in them.

“If there were a well contamination or failure, then how do we cope with no water to that number of residents?” she said.

There are other issues at play as well.

The town says it properly notified residents of a public hearing on the by-law. The apartment owners disagree and feel a more formal notice should have been given rather than through social media and the town’s website.

There is also the economic ramifications of the upfront costs of hookup and yearly fees. Grant says low-income renters shouldn’t suffer.

“I think that absorbing some of the costs should at least be considered,” she said.

Other owners say they are willing to work with the town when it comes to well water safety but the numbers don’t add up for low-income units with the additional expense of joining the municipal system.

“That’s why you also don’t see brand new apartments being offered for $750, $800, $900,” said Andrew Baskin of InvestinUs Inc. “A lot of them are $1,500.”

Grant says while there’s no way the town can repeal the by-law, staff has been asked to come up with a report to see if any modifications can be made.

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