LETHBRIDGE: Southridge residents are fed up with faulty sanitation systems - and they want the city to help. About 22 homeowners and their families gathered at city hall Monday to hear debate on the issue.
"We were told that these septic field systems were sustainable, but as we're finding out now, they're not," said Randy Virginillo who speaks for the group.
On their part, the residents say demands on sump pumps are too high - to the point of flooding and property damage in many cases. They estimate the average home with a sump system pumps out as much as 700,000 gallons a year. The amount of water that's flowing from the septic fields and into the soil near Six Mile Coulee is even higher - an estimated 1 million gallons per year.
City staff admit the situation could cause problems for the coulee and for nearby roads. They also acknowledge concerns from public health authorities that septic field systems "create the potential for a public health nuisance."
But they told council during an hours-long debate Monday that they have no legal responsibility to pay for a new sewer system, adding that ongoing costs to fix road damage from excess water and manage water outflows are cheaper overall than paying the $3 million needed to install a new sewer system. Even so, many aldermen seemed interested in taking it further.
"Why don't we take a different approach?" asked Ald. Joe Mauro, who chaired a set of public meetings on the issue over the summer. "The buck has to stop somewhere. And whether we like it or not, I'm always sensing it has to come back to the city."
Ald. Ryan Parker agreed that more can be done, but challenged the homeowners to do their part by launching a formal request for action. Ald. Jeff Coffman had the final word before the rest of council voted with him - to ask for a full blown petition from the neighbourhood. "My basic democratic sensibilities lead me to think the citizens deserve a debate on this issue," said Coffman.