Original Published on Aug 03, 2022 at 05:00

By Lacie Nairn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

 Kneehill County council will continue engaging with rural county residents living east of the Town of Three Hills to establish a water system in this region after a recommendation at the Tuesday, June 21 Committee of the Whole meeting.

 Discussions to bring potable water to this area have been ongoing for several years, and administration conducted a survey in March 2021 which showed a favourable response to establishing a system; following the results, administration engaged with a consultant to conduct a water feasibility study.

 “The study performed by the consultant for a full-flow water system and, or construction of a bulk water station that could be supplied by three existing transmission lines–the Town of Three Hills water transmission line, the Mount Vernon booster station, and the Aqua7 transmission line,” explained Environmental Services manager John McKiernan during the meeting.

 Mr. McKiernan explained building a full-flow water system would range between $17.8 million and $19.5 million and a bulk water fill station would range in cost from $3.4 million to $7.5 million depending on which transmission line was used.

 Previous water systems in the county have been built using grant funding and internal borrowing, but at this time it is unknown whether grant funding is available. Mr. McKiernan noted, while council could discuss funding the project through internal borrowing, administration would need to put together some financial forecasts to determine the feasibility of either taking from other funding reserves, or making use of the county’s current debt limit.

 Council spoke at length about building the water system, though both Division 1 and Division 2 Councillors Faye McGhee and Debbie Penner expressed concerns about the lack of engagement during the 2021 survey. 

 Councillor Mcghee added she would also like to see more public participation to help determine which of the presented scenarios would work best for residents, and their willingness to commit to a connection.

 Some area residents attended the meeting and, during discussions, were granted permission to address council.

 Area resident Lori Webb shared with council her husband, David Webb, had given a presentation to council roughly 10 years ago, which included a signed petition from area residents showing their interest in a water system, along with water samples from their home. 

 She added, over the years, she has been told by multiple water companies, as well as a health inspector, that the water at her residence was of very poor quality. The health inspector even recommended against giving her children a washcloth during baths due to quality concerns.

 “As far as community engagement and the community being involved, it’s tough for us when we feel we have done that, we have spent that time,” Ms. Webb shared.

She added the March 2021  survey was not the first received by area residents and questioned council why they should continue to fill out surveys “when nothing happens.”

 Another resident from the area, Donald Mueller, added he had not returned his survey due to a lack of information. 

 “It was a nonsensical survey,” he told the council. “There was no information, I don’t know what I’m committing to.”

 The committee adjourned to a closed session to allow more sensitive discussion to continue; following the closed session, Councillor McGhee moved to recommend that council continue public engagements for the Three Hills East water project.

This item reprinted with permission from The Mail, Drumheller, Alberta