Densify or bust

You may be wondering why I begin this with a photo of one of the boil-water advisory signs at the entrance to neighbourhoods along Highway 342 in Vaudreuil-Dorion.

So read on.

One of the reasons I launched this WordPress blog was to give area residents a soapbox, something I’m often told is sorely lacking since the Gazette Vaudreuil-Soulanges ceased publication in October 2014.

The way I see it, my job is to get people talking again, to get ideas flowing again. I don’t see that happening at the municipal level. People can’t be bothered when they conclude their ideas aren’t welcomed or treated with respect. Whether through arrogance or ignorance, this administration has made it clear the only ideas it welcomes are those which dovetail with its own agenda. This is a legitimate approach but it’s hardly participatory democracy.

So it’s humbling to see the depth and breadth of informed comment on the issues I’ve raised on thousandlashes.ca. Hudson may have many faults, but the intelligence, wisdom and collective life experience of its people is not one.

Via this blog, we’ve learned of the work done by previous administrations in key areas of discussion – Brian Grubert and his Agricultural Advisory Committee colleagues on how best to incubate small-scale sustainable agricultural operations, the role of the Town Planning Advisory Committee – an advisory body which recommends, but has no power to dictate to the mayor and council. It is a shame when elected officials can’t find the guts to own up to a decision, instead blaming it on TPAC. As former mayor Liz Corker once told me, “we can ignore TPAC’s recommendations, but if we do it all the time, they’ll get discouraged and quit.” Compared to its neighbours, Hudson is a better place for its activist TPAC and it will be a shame when Mayor Ed Prévost and his council replace it with a hand-picked herd of trained seals.

This is just one of the many changes to come in the days ahead. Some of them are for the better, such as the sale or long-term lease of the town-owned lot at 98 Cameron to a developer. We had long hoped for a multi-unit residential development on this site because it will set the stage for others. The Daousts have expressed interest in a residential development on their works yard across the street and I fervently hope the town can iron out its differences with Josie Pascoe so as to allow her three-storey condo unit to be built at the foot of Cameron. These are all high-quality projects with the ability to bring new consumers to a town sadly lacking in reasons for optimism.

Some readers may recall how I accompanied the MRC delegation to the PMAD hearings at the Canadian Railway Museum in St. Constant. At the time I wrote that we would lose because the greens were on the side of the PMAD’s five-year freeze on all agricultural dezoning off the island. I still think the PMAD is a four-letter word but I think we agree it’s best to densify where services allow. The MAMOT quibble with the town is why dezone more agricultural land when Hudson is making no effort to densify serviced sectors.

So I support densification in the sectors where densification makes sense. I hope the Ellerbecks will re-present their project just west of the ferry. As Brian Grubert and Peter Ratcliffe explain better than I can, this project would have the added benefit of protecting a 50-hectare greenspace in perpetuity. I know this greenspace well, a mix of wetland and old-growth mixed forest, a natural park for future generations.

The town would benefit in other ways. The Ellerbeck development always intended to connect to the Bellevue sewage interceptor, which passes through that greenspace on its way to the treatment plant.  Ellerbeck also undertook to extend a line to take in development on Leger/Oakfield as well as the Willow/Anchorage Inn and adjacent commercial zone. To address Diane Piacente’s concerns about the capacity of Hudson’s sewage and potable water treatment systems, I’m told the sewage treatment plant is operating at approximately half capacity (with 71 per cent of eligible users hooked up). The water treatment plant, as you probably know, was built to precipitate iron and manganese from the water supplied by the town’s three wells because of the impact on pipes and appliances and the propensity for certain bacteria to breed.

While the water filtration plant can handle considerably more volume than it is currently, ultimate capacity depends on backflush water storage and THAT depends on the levels of iron and manganese from the town’s wells. (The more we suck from Bradbury, Wellesley and Viviry wells, the more iron and manganese ions are pulled into the screen at the foot of the well and the more contaminated the water becomes. The water is safe to drink notwithstanding those levels (chlorine can be introduced during the precipitation/decantation process as well as directly at each wellhead) but it becomes an aesthetic issue with homeowners and businesses because of taste, odour and staining issues.

So, next summer and barring record precipitation (hardly a record this winter!) Hudson will once again institute a watering ban. Not because the treatment plant can’t handle it, but because the Town of Hudson needs a new well we can’t afford.

I’ve been writing and saying this again and again, but this time I’ll be making it personal. Mr. Prévost, we don’t need another well that will fail because the demand on it is too great.

We need to start drawing water from the Lake of Two Mountains.

St. Lazare, Rigaud and Vaudreuil-Dorion all have problems supplying adequate drinking water as well as water to fight fires. So ask them whether they’d go in on a project to draw lakewater to supply everyone. Nobody will have to drill another well. Or boil another kettle of water unless they’re making tea.

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5 thoughts on “Densify or bust

  1. The statement “we need to start drawing water from the lake of two mountains” is indeed factual but a challenge and a half. This alone would require a new building, pumps, holding tanks, treatment zones. An entire facility would have to be built. This would cost hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. While a new well would cost a fraction of that. Two new wells would cost a fraction of that. Three new wells would cost a fraction of that. Do I believe it is something that needs to be done? Absolutely. But the infrastructure required for this project isn’t going to fit in someone’s back pocket, nor can they pull it out from there either. Just take a short drive to Vaudreuil-Dorion, and go down Ouimet Ave. .. There water filtration plant behind Cite des Jeunes school is still incomplete, with construction continuing a daily basis.. Since 2012. Rome most certainly will not be built in a day.

    On the other subject of a lack of voice since the smoke show entitled “the dissapearence of the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Gazette”, I have to agree there too. With no Vaudreuil-Soulanges Gazette, the voices of our area are most certainly not being echoed in the remaining local paper.

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    1. Kevin, the last well Hudson drilled cost us a million and a half and lasted three years. Problem is, the aquifer underlying the town has high iron/manganese content. The more water we use to water lawns and wash our cars, the the more we suck out of our three wells. The harder we suck, the more iron and manganese ions are drawn into the water-filled sand 400 feet below us, requiring more filtration and shortening the useful life of the well itself. So do we sink a bunch of wells, as St. Lazare has done so as not to cause each well undue stress, or do we invest now in the inevitable as the aquifer runs out? I say plan for future generations and bypass the annual well-drilling agony. I agree it’s a novel concept in a municipality where the biggest concern is the next municipal election. That’s the problem with democracies. They tend to think in electoral cycles.

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  2. Jim, you pose a difficult question with regards to water sourcing sustainability. We are rather spoiled in Canada assuming it is a bottomless natural resource.

    My concern with pulling water from the Lake is the quality and reliable quantity of it.

    What happens if, some would say when, a pipeline leaks upstream and it takes an unimaginable amount of time to locate this leak and then to fix it? Kalamazoo remains the unavoidable reference with regards to this scenario as Mégantic will be for train convoys for generations to come. Add to this situation the regular Flushgates which seem to abound in all sizes and formats in our country with little reliable management framework.

    Not sure what is worse, chlorine, pesticides, fecal bacteria which can be treated with more chlorine or heavy contaminants… or BPA from the the store-bought plastic bottles for the truly paranoid.

    I have noticed an odd attempt by current council to introduce water meters on the few commerces in town. Not sure how these will pay for themselves as I cannot imagine water consumption there is terribly high. Golf course, now there perhaps… It is always a thought. How long will it be before these are imposed on every residence?

    I am all for sustainable accounting, as it often confronts people with the reality they had been avoiding. However, I do not like being slipped something in my drink without first being asked to dance.

    What, why, how, how much… These are simple questions which must be answered with each submittal, while preferably quoting more than one source, one reference.

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    1. Good point. My concern is that is not sustainable to pull increasing quantities from the aquifer when the studies regarding its sustainability are ongoing. ( COBAVER V-S/MRC/HEC) Instead of pissing money away on endless wells as St Lazare persists in ding, let’s arm ourselves with knowledge and move forward on that basis. The mayor is right in resisting pressure to drill another well but it’s just the first step. Read the litany of problems surrounding St. Lazare’s water crisis and realize the aquifer isn’t sustainable.

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  3. For 43 years, Hudson Mayors and Town Councils consulted their Town Engineer on a variety of issues. This individual was well respected and we all came to rely on his candor and common sense during times of crisis and his sound advice on general matters of concern.

    Contrary to all those who went before, this council dismissed this individual out of turn and basically forced him into retirement. Since then, with no town engineer on staff, we have seen the Pine Lake situation grossly mismanaged; last summer we were told that there was insufficient potable water to meet our needs only to be told later the contrary; outside consulting engineers unfamiliar with the local aquifer were hired to “study” the situation; hundreds of pages of information already on file were ignored……………………… and the list goes on ……………

    Jim, you suggest perhaps it is time to consider drawing our water from the river like some of the neighbouring towns do. There was an extensive study done by LBCD during Steve Shaar’s time as mayor, the conclusion at the time was that it was cost prohibitive.

    A lot has changed since then, however – residential development around us has mushroomed – suggesting that perhaps we should at least revisit the possibility while we actively look for a new well. Surely we don’t want to be making a decision with a gun to our head when we run out of water.

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