Putting up a stink
A couple weeks ago I wrote about the District of Invermere (DOI) continued water woes. The water continues to be dirty intermittently, along with this, now DOI is having sewer trouble.
The smell of sewage, especially in the morning, fills the air concerning citizens and District officials.
The waste water lagoons are located in Athalmer beside Toby creek. The water is treated through a series of ponds and then seeps or is discharged into the creek. The water is continually tested at the discharge end to assure it is pure enough not to be harmful to the environment once discharged. This is the way most systems work, waste water is eventually returned to the ecosystem. Done right it works.
When sewage ponds start smelling it means the system is not working. Often it is because the micro organisms that purify the sewage have died. There could be plenty of reasons for this. It could be lack of oxygen. If you have ever seen a sewage lagoon you may have noticed a bubbling in the middle, almost like a fountain. That is a pump oxygenating the water for the bugs.
Of course there are other reasons why a system may stop working. DOI’s response is that the weather has changed and too many people are flushing sanitary wipes, designed to kill germs that are also killing the micro organisms in the wastewater ponds.
This explanation could be true. The result is an awful smell that is getting the attention and ire of residents. However a larger problem than smell may be happening. The waste water currently may not be treated and it is ending up in Toby Creek. If that is not bad enough. During May and June, the creek, during high water, flows backwards into Lake Windermere.
As mentioned previously regarding the quality of the water, DOI has ignored infrastructure for a long time. Choosing instead to focus on tourism, bringing more people to the valley and supporting business interests. In short, acting more as a chamber of commerce than local government. Our current mayor is a past President of The Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce and it sometimes seems he doesn’t know the difference between the two positions.
I can’t count the number of times I have been told by DOI officials we need more tourists and second home owners, because they are the ones paying for badly needed infrastructure upgrades. I remember a past Mayor of DOI, standing on my doorstop, telling me he cared less for the people living here and more for the people, they are enticing to the area, for that very reason.
That’s fine. I get it. More tax payers, more services. But it only works if that money is used to upgrade services. In DOI case the extra money has been used to buy land to support more tourism, get more boats on the lake, and promote Invermere as Calgary’s ‘back yard’ where anything goes.
So now water and sewer problems are becoming hard to ignore and that can only mean one thing, higher taxes. There is no problem or incompetence money can’t fix.
DOI council has poor leadership, but good minds in supportive rolls. That’s important, weak leadership can always be swayed to do the right thing with proper reinforcement. The trick is to remind leadership what is good for most people is also good for them.
It is time for DOI to stop catering to tourists, second home developments and business interests and start serving residents as promised.