New, strong water regs passed for Pembroke 0
Pembroke Councillor Terry O'Neill
Pembroke city council has passed tough new water use regulations Tuesday night, over the vigorously objections of two councillors.
While their colleagues backed it, Coun. Pat Lafreniere and Terry O’Neill voted against the bylaw, which imposes water restrictions each year between May 15 and Sept. 15.
Under it, watering hours will be limited to 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., with those residents living at even numbered addresses permitted to water on even days on the calendar, and those with odd numbered addresses on odd days.
Violators would be facing fines ranging from $125 to $150.
In explaining his opposition, Coun. O’Neill said he felt the exercise was a waste of time, as it just adds more regulations which likely wouldn’t be used anyway.
“To me, it’s just another bylaw which doesn’t mean anything, as no one enforces them anyway,” he said, adding that in his opinion, any councillor voting to support this bylaw should also commit their personal time to make sure it is enforced.
His main objection, though, was about the city introducing tougher laws over something which has happened only once - an unusually dry summer - and for reasons which didn’t really affect the city itself.
“We didn’t have a supply problem, we had a pumping problem,” Coun. O’Neill said, as the increased demand for water was putting strains on the equipment in their water plant. He said it wasn’t as if the municipality itself was running out of water.
Coun. Lafreniere agreed, saying she felt it was premature to be bringing in tough water restrictions when for all any of them knew, this exceptionally dry summer could just be a once in a lifetime event.
She said she feared enforcing this would be a nightmare for staff, as it would leave them open to a flood of public complaints; plus it would be complicated to try and impose those same limits on those residents of Laurentian Valley Township who draw drinking water from the city’s plant. If they didn’t, city residents would be paying the bill run up by those from another municipality.
Coun. Lafreniere added she thinks it is also heavy handed for the city to impose water restrictions on a population which for the most part has gone along with voluntary restrictions.
“I think Pembroke citizens do follow the (water use) guidelines,” she said, “but to threaten them with fines will just encourage fights within neighbourhoods (as people scramble to report their neighbours).”
The regulations were first introduced in August, coming in the wake of the worst drought the region has seen in decades. Because the increased demand for water was putting a strain on city resources, the municipality had asked residents earlier this summer to voluntarily restrict their water use. While many complied, others did not, and so it was felt a bigger stick was needed.
In supporting the bylaw, Coun. Les Scott said while he agrees the vast majority of people do follow the guidelines, the tougher legislation is aimed at those who do not. He said the drought has reminded them all of the importance of water as a commodity, which they have all been taking for granted.
Coun. Bob Hackett said he agrees with conserving resources, but is also motivated by saving taxpayers’ money. He said it cost the city $100,000 to provide the extra water used by residents, and when one added the price of wear and tear on equipment, it just made sense to put the brakes on excessive water consumption.
Coun. Dan Callaghan said he isn’t so sure this year’s drought is a singular event, and with the Bonnechere River area being classified as in a Level 3 drought condition, he agrees it is time the city take water conservation seriously.
“We need to get with the times and get tough,” he said.
The new bylaw does provide watering exceptions in the case of new sod, all new plantings and treatments such as pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer, which need a certain amount of watering to become established.
Under the discretion of chief administrative officer Terry Lapierre, where river levels warrant, additional restrictions may be imposed together with increased fines. In the event of a council or provincially declared emergency, additional restrictions would be imposed.
Stephen Uhler is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist