John Mason’s Last Stand

The Dashwood resident isn’t eager to tie into Grand Bend’s sewage line. Are you?

Story and photo by Casey Lessard

Sewage collection system information session
Tuesday, September 30
7 to 9 p.m. – Grand Bend Public School

Standing in front of a lagoon that currently services the sewage waste of 1100 residents, John Mason wonders how these same lagoons east of Grand Bend will hold the waste of 11,000 in 2031. Yes, there will be a new sewage treatment facility at the site (once the tri-municipality consortium of Lambton Shores, Bluewater and South Huron approves it), but the Dashwood resident questions the decisions that are leading to the future he fears.
“People are upset,” Mason says. “I had a neighbour come over the other night crying; she can’t afford to keep going right now, let alone have a $26,000 sewage bill to tie in. Then there’s the $150 monthly cost. Mother Nature is doing it for free right now (Dashwood is on septic). They’re just putting undue hardships on everybody.”
Since the Walkerton E. coli tragedy, wastewater at all Ontario lagoons (Grand Bend’s was installed in 1979) must be treated through a treatment plant. Following Crediton’s and Hensall’s lead, Dashwood, St. Joseph and Grand Bend must now convert from septic to sewage with a plant at the present lagoon site on Mollard Line.
“Last year in Hensall, the costs that were presented to us then were $26,000 for each lot in Dashwood to tie into the system,” Mason says, “but that’s at today’s rates and we might not tie in for 10 or 12 years. Who knows what the price will be then.”
Mason is concerned that not everyone in the project’s zone is aware of the fact that they’ll be paying big money to tie in.
“Along the lake it’s $24,000 each to start,” he predicts. “A 3,000 gallon tank is $5,000. The other tank is $5,000. Plus they have to tie in from the road, so all told it’s about $40,000 per lot from St. Joseph to the Pinery.”
Lambton Shores community services director Peggy Van Mierlo-West says she can’t confirm a projected per household cost because the firm handling the project, Dillon Consulting, is not finished its proposal and has not set a cost estimate.
“They are working on that right now,” she says, “so I don’t know where people are coming up with those numbers.”
Mason figures that with Dashwood home values in the $150,000 range, it’s not a stretch to suggest that most families there will have to refinance their homes or move.
“We recently put my mom in a home, so we have her home for sale. It’s 30 years old, brick with a full basement on an acre lot. Double-car garage. We got an offer on it the other day for $147,000. A house just like it just sold in Exeter for $349,000. Wait until we get assessed for sewage, and we won’t be able to give this house away.
“Dashwood’s the last teepee standing, where we can live cheaply. Where are our poor people going to live? The Bible says, ‘The meek shall inherit the Earth.’ Where are we meek going to live?”
Mason has some solutions that could help pay for the project. They include making such infrastructure expenditures tax deductible; offering government loans at the prime rate; and canceling the project by diverting the affluent to fertilize trees at the Pinery.
The public input phase for the tertiary plant is complete, Van Mierlo-West says. Promoted as a superior environmental alternative, the new facility would use top of the line technology, including UV radiation, to purify water and eliminate not only bacteria but also nitrates and phosphates, along with any toxic materials residents put down their drains. Solar, wind, and geothermal technology would help power and heat the plant.
The lagoons on Mollard Line currently drain into the Shipka Drain, which feeds the Parkhill Creek, which takes the water to Lake Huron south of the pier. While the new system will manage 10-times as much water, Van Mierlo-West says it will reduce the amount of waste that goes into the lake – by a long shot.
“It doesn’t eliminate the risk, but it reduces it most drastically. Very low actually,” she says. “We’re sizing it for that capacity, and we’re looking at a method that will have the water treated by UV light before it’s released.”
The September 30 meeting is a chance for residents to tell Lambton Shores council which system they want to transport the waste from their home to the plant. The two options are: gravity to a municipal pumping station; and privately powered pumps that force the water into the main pipes. With the first system, small buildings with control panels will be erected in strategic locations; with the second, each homeowner will pay hydro to pump the waste out.
“We haven’t made a decision yet on which method we’re looking at,” Van Mierlo-West says, noting the cost for each will be presented at the meeting.
After receiving more than 100 comments from the last public meeting, Van Mierlo-West is eager to see a strong community turnout; community associations in Southcott Pines and Huron Woods, among others, are encouraging residents to attend the meeting.
“A lot of people are going to be showing up for this meeting,” she says. “It’s nice to know there’s interest in this project. If there wasn’t, I’d be worried.”