Town amends policy for water shut-offs

FORT FRANCES—The Town of Fort Frances now will notify the Ministry of Environment and Northwestern Health Unit two weeks in advance of shutting the water supply off if the owner of a private water system has a delinquent water and sewer account.
This is an amendment made to the town’s collection procedure for delinquent water and sewer accounts, which Mayor Dan Onichuk previously had asked administration and management to review.
In a report, which council passed during Monday night’s regular meeting, Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown said the top priority in the case of the water supply to a trailer park in arrears is ensuring suitable water quality for residents there.
“While there is no requirement to notify the Ministry of the Environment and public health unit under regulation 170/03, it is probably a reasonable thing to do as it affects several individual water consumers.
“And the chance of contamination is greater, as the length and size of the watermains within the trailer parks contain a large volume of stagnant water if it is shut down for an extended period of time,” he added.
“Also, it gives these organizations advance notice to ensure the owner of the water system has taken appropriate steps to notify individuals within the trailer park, and is utilizing best practices when completing a waterline repair as required under the Safe Drinking Water Act,” Brown continued.
Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft asked that in the event of water service being terminated to a trailer park due to a delinquent account, shouldn’t the residents there be notified?
“Under Regulation 170, the new water regulation, the owner of the trailer owns, operates, and maintains the water distribution system,” replied Brown. “We have no obligation to tell those living in the trailer park their water service is going to be terminated.
“Because there is more of an issue as to whether the water is of good quality, we’ll give the Ministry of Health and public health [unit] notice two weeks prior to termination so that they can see if the owner is actually following up and doing things properly,” he added.
“It is his obligation, not ours,” Brown stressed. “We don’t do maintenance at the trailer park, we don’t do flushing, we don’t do sampling; it’s up to the owner.”
Brown also noted that leaving it up to the town to notify trailer park residents that the owner hasn’t paid their water bill puts the town at unnecessary risk.
“What if we don’t notify everyone? What if we only get four out of five people? Whose responsibility is it?” he queried.
Mayor Onichuk said while theoretically possible, it’s unlikely the water supply to a trailer park would ever have to be shut off.
That’s because unlike the water and sewer situation with Couchiching, the town simply could add outstanding arrears to the trailer park owner’s property taxes at the end of the year.
This amended policy also applies to Couchiching First Nation, with which the town still is in the process of establishing a new sewer and water agreement.