Nothing else matters

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Top, the five phases of the Ravin Boisé residential development. Bottom: a map shows how the project is situated, with a proposed park along the Viviry (immediately to the right of the red project boundary at centre).

Back in 2013, I first wrote about Ravin Boisé, a major residential project being proposed for a forested area in Vaudreuil-Dorion bounded by Upper Alstonvale to the west, Highway 40 to the south and existing developments along Harwood to the north and the east.

I could mourn the loss of another beautiful south-facing woodlot filled with deer, wild turkeys and mature hardwoods, but that’s life in a society that subsidizes fossil fuels and encourages urban sprawl. No, my beef with Ravin Boisé and its 200+ doors is how the developer is proposing to deal with the massive quantities of sewage and runoff directly uphill from the wetland that feeds Viviry Creek and the aquifer that supplies Hudson its drinking water.

At the time, V-D mayor Guy Pilon said Ravin Boisé wouldn’t be allowed to proceed without its own sewage treatment and runoff retention systems.

Earlier this year, work got underway on the project, beginning with an access road from Upper Alstonvale. Last week I biked up to Ravin Boisé to check on progress and ran into someone who said I was welcome to ride down the new road.

Potential for pollution: the main road into the project will channel torrent of contaminated runoff into the Viviry Creek watershed, the replenishment basin for the source of Hudson’s drinking water supply.

Work is well underway on what the developer’s website characterizes as Phase 4. The road into the project is approximately two kilometres long and terminates in a clearing at the bottom of the hill next to Highway 40. The road contractor is installing storm sewers and water lines but there’s no sign of a sewer system and no mention of any sewage treatment facility on the Ravin Boisé website.

I’m waiting for callbacks from Vaudreuil-Dorion’s urban planning department and/or developer Habitations Robert.

The end of the development road. The Viviry wetland is the clearing through the trees.

The potential for a runoff retention problem is far greater, now that the hillside is being stripped of the trees and undergrowth that used to slow the flow long enough for runoff to percolate into the soil.

The road heads straight downhill, a man-made river directing runoff and meltwater from all those roofs and all those paved driveways directly into the Viviry’s headwaters. Standing there at the bottom of the hill, I could visualize the effects of a torrential downpour, beginning with the Upper Viviry widening into a lake before the volume of water continues down through Hudson.

Pine Lake, April 2017: any plan for Hudson’s symbolic pond must accommodate its role as a retention basin.

We’ve already seen what happens to Pine Flats after heavy rains. It turns back into a lake and the Viviry threatens to wash away what’s left of the dam next to Cameron, with potentially catastrophic effects on one of Hudson’s main roads in and out of town.

There are ways to retain and redirect runoff. Our neighbours have a steep driveway up to our street. In winter, there’s a real risk of a vehicle sliding down their hill and crashing into the garage door. So they asked Gord Simpson of S&S Landscaping to come up with a solution.

Runoff mitigation and retention measures being applied to this steep Hudson driveway are designed to keep it ice-free all winter.

You’re looking at it here. S&S reshaped and excavated the driveway to include berms that will act as dams to direct runoff to the downhill side. Then they refilled the driveway with layers of gravel, beginning with maybe a foot of coarse stone. Then came more layers of finer gravel that will provide the bed for a type of paver that allows water to penetrate.

If all goes according to plan, the entire driveway becomes a permeable structure that will  drain runoff as quickly as it turns to water. Theoretically, ice can’t build up and all S&S has to do is clear the snow without risking a fast trip downhill.

Inevitably, the runoff from Ravin Boisé will find its way into the Viviry Creek watershed, the source

Back to Ravin Boisé: unless the development includes a common sewage treatment system as well as runoff retention measures, the risk of groundwater contamination with fecal coliform rises exponentially.

Development, no matter how carefully designed and executed, alters runoff and retention patterns. Municipal borders mean nothing to water.

Understand this: upstream development poses a significant and growing contamination risk to Hudson’s water supply. As we learned at last month’s special presentation, the only sustainable solution lies in drawing water from the Lake of Two Mountains.

The only way Hudson’s taxpayers can afford the $12-$15M cost is to reach agreement with Hudson’s equally thirsty neighbours — Rigaud, St. Lazare and Vaudreuil-Dorion, home to this and other water-consuming, runoff and sewage-producing developments. If I was Hudson’s mayor, I’d be pushing this file nonstop at the intermunicipal, regional and provincial levels.

Because as you can see, everything is interrelated — sewage treatment, runoff retention, Pine Lake, a new well, development in Hudson and neighbouring municipalities. There’s an argument to be made against spending $1.4M on a new well if there’s the slightest possibility we can come up with a cheaper long-term solution that will bring water to everyone.

Water is and should be at the heart of this election. Without a sustainable water supply, nothing else matters.

Update: I spoke to Vaudreuil-Dorion mayor Guy Pilon Friday afternoon, Oct. 16. He told me the environment ministry demanded that the developer install a tertiary sewage treatment system with sufficient capacity to handle the volume produced by the development when it’s completed.

Pilon said runoff mitigation and retention measures aren’t necessary because the developer is being required to ensure wide setbacks along existing watercourses.

Enough of the forest canopy is being protected to slow runoff and allow it to percolate into the soil, he added. 

Will the outflow from the sewage treatment plant and runoff from the development increase the Viviry’s volume and flow rate downstream through Hudson?

“No, no, no, absolutely not!”



Meanwhile, back at Town Hall…

I’ll continue writing this blog for the duration of the election campaign. I won’t burden my readers with lurid campaign details to date except to say I knocked over my ladder while putting up Jim Duff District 5 posters and had to koala-hug my way down a splintery staple-studded hydro pole.

We have to keep our eyes on the goings-on at Hudson town hall for the duration of the election, out of public view from this evening until the next mayor and council are sworn in more than a month from now.

Council will be dissolved after this evening’s special meeting (7 p.m., Community Centre) but town business will continue under the supervision of the acting mayor (pro-mayor Natalie Best) and town manager Jean-Pierre Roy. That includes loan bylaws for paving and a new well, a parking bylaw and approval of the new Coast Guard base.

I’m sure resolutions adopted at last week’s council meeting will reverberate during question period, especially the announcement of a deal with Sandy Beach developer Nicanco whereby the town takes over responsibility for Beach Road/ Royalview. In exchange, the developer adds a lot to the east to the existing servitude and agrees to install all infrastructure and pave the road. The developer will also cover the cost of two sewage pumping stations and extending a line west to the sewage treatment plant.

There is a long and growing list of work being done to comply with the Dec. 31 deadline for completion of projects receiving funding this year, including a new roof and mural for the curling club. Two local artists, Daniel Gautier and Kent Thomson, will be paid $10,000 each (they have both been cut $5,000 cheques to cover their setup costs) for designing and creating a We are Canada mural (citizens are promised some form of input at a later date). Roy, as DG, has been given authority by this council to sign cheques and approve contracts while  residents pick a council that will have to live with the results and approve the final tab.


Posted this on FB yesterday:

Going through the auditor’s report on Hudson’s fiscal 2016. (It was presented at this council’s last regular Monday-night rubber-stamp event.) A $976,343 operating surplus, $4M in the bank, $400,000 more than budgeted to pay down the $26.7M long-term debt, lower than budgeted expenditures. Flip side: Hudson’s auditor can’t attest to the veracity of the data in their report because the town remains under a MAMOT dark cloud.

It’s hard to nail down, this dark cloud  but there’s no doubt it’s there, a conflation of Louise Villandré’s online gambling frauds and the litigious mess involving the town’s former DG, a human resources consultant and the outgoing mayor.  Here’s the introduction to an adverse opinion of the town’s financial situation (my translation and synopsis:

Our responsibility consists of offering an opinion on the consolidated financial statements on the basis of our audit. We carried out our audit according to generally recognized Canadian audit norms. These norms require that we adhere to [our profession’s] code of ethics and that we plan and conduct the audit so as to reasonably assure ourselves that the consolidated financial statements not contain significant anomalies.

An audit presupposes the carrying out of procedures designed to gather correct data concerning the sums and information contained in the consolidated financial statements. The choice of procedures is up to the auditor, and notably that his evaluation of risks the consolidated financial statements may contain significant anomalies and that these may result in frauds or errors. In the risk evaluation, the auditor takes into consideration [the Town of Hudson’s] internal controls on the preparation and accurate presentation of the consolidated financial statements so as to come up with audit procedures appropriate under the circumstances, and not with the goal of expressing an opinion on the effectiveness of the [town’s] internal controls. An audit also carries with it an appreciation of the appropriateness of the accounting methods used and how the consolidated financial statements are presented.

The audit evidence, Gaudreau, Poirier concluded in its report, is “sufficient and appropriate on which to base our adverse opinion (opinion d’audit défavorable)”

Wikipedia: In an audit report, an adverse opinion is one expressed by the professional accountant in which the auditor formulates a restriction on the basis that the financial statements do not fairly present the entity’s financial position and results in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles or a other applicable financial reporting framework.

Gaudreau Poirier continues: The town’s internal control deficiencies between 2004 and 2013 may have allowed some expenditures on town projects covered by [government] grants not in conformity with the loan bylaws that approved them. The auditors were unable to determine specific incidents.

In their view, the town’s consolidated financial statements do not give an accurate picture of the financial situation of the town and organizations under its control as of Dec. 31/16.

This post has been corrected to reduce the payout to the two We are Canada artists to $10,000 from $15,000. 

A FB message from Culture and Tourism director Laura McCaffrey on plans for public involvement: “Mr Duff – a quick correction regarding the mural info you posted on your latest blog. Each artist will be paid $10,000 for their work, which will have extended over 3 months. Input from residents has been solicited over the last 2 months via emails to our community and cultural organizations and their members, through social media, and through printed media with an article in YLJ and Arts Hudson. In addition to the submissions that we have received from the public, which have all been taken into account in the design of the mural, Hudson residents will have an opportunity to contribute to the actual painting of the mural once the painting process has begun. At the outset when determining timelines for the completion of this project, we concluded that November 11th would be a realistic and appropriate date to unveil the completed project. We continue to be on track to meet this deadline.” 

The alleged conversion of the beach servitude to outright public ownership was based on an unrecorded conversation and remains to be confirmed.