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Lac La Nonne residents upset with lagoon closure

A small group of Lac La Nonne residents let their opinion be known regarding the closure of the Lac La Nonne Water Stabilization pond (also known as the Dunstable lagoon).

A small group of Lac La Nonne residents let their opinion be known regarding the closure of the Lac La Nonne Water Stabilization pond (also known as the Dunstable lagoon).

The Lagoon was closed April 1, and residents who would normally utilize its services must now travel to the newly developed lagoon in Lac Ste. Anne County. The other option is to use the Manola lagoon; however, the distance makes the Lac Ste. Anne County lagoon the more viable option. The lagoon in Lac Ste. Anne is spread across 60 acres and is equipped with multiple cells. Anyone who uses the lagoon and who doesn’t reside in Lac Ste. Anne County will be required to pay a $20 per load user fee, and the County of Barrhead inked a $3,000-a-year deal to use the site. That money will be put toward building and maintaining a road into the lagoon.

The County entered into a $3,000 agreement with Lac Ste. Anne County in previous years to allow its residents to dump at the Dunstable lagoon. No user fees were charged to any of the residents from Lac Ste. Anne. Furthermore, several summer villages in the area have also contributed to the state of the lagoon, but they all contributed to its construction costs, so they were allowed to use it, said County Reeve Bill Lee.

The reason for closing the Dunstable lagoon stems from a complaint filed with Alberta Environment, said County Manager Mark Oberg. For the past several years, the County has been pumping out the wastewater when it reached high levels. Every year, the County had to apply for permission from Environment Alberta in order to pump, but after receiving the complaint, the County is no longer able to do that. When it was last measured in October, the effluent was 0.6 metres below its allowable level as set out by Alberta Environment.

“Up until last year, we were able to irrigate the lagoon,” Lee said. “We’re no longer allowed to do that.”

Had the County been granted approval to continue irrigating, the lagoon likely could have lasted another 10 to 15 years, he said, even with residents of Lac Ste. Anne using it. Dunstable lagoon is actually not designed to have its water pumped out; rather, it is an evaporation pond, Oberg said.

The closure will allow for the wastewater to evaporate, but there is no telling how long that would take. Once it reaches the appropriate level, it will be opened up to the public.

Comprising the group was Darlene Sadoway, Ron Hearn, Cecil Somerset, David Reith, Lionel Pachal and Debra Boyle. They told councillors they feel they are being penalized for abiding by the rules, and that they are being “dinged” for the County letting others use the lagoon. They questioned why they should have to pay for the lack of foresight on the County’s part, given the fact the County should have seen this coming. The objective of the delegation was to determine whether there were any alternatives, because many of the residents don’t want to have to pay the $20 per load fee.

However, Coun. Bill Lane told the delegation that the Dunstable lagoon has been discussed at council for quite some time. They talked about the possibility of building up the berm another two feet, but it was an idea that was quickly quashed by Alberta Environment. Councillors have even been discussing the option of charging user fees to everyone who uses the County’s lagoons.

The reason user fees are charged is to help offset the cost of future work that would need to be done, Oberg said. A facility can sit for years and need little to no work, but when the time comes to do that work, it is very expensive.

Boyle told councillors she has a smaller holding tank that is emptied every three weeks. Homes that are located within a certain distance of the lake aren’t allowed to set up on their property a treatment system, so they have to have their sewage trucked to a lagoon. She said it costs $71 every time it is emptied, and the user fee for the lagoon in Lac Ste. Anne would mean she would be paying upwards of $90, and it’s money that many people can’t afford. She even mentioned the County reimbursing residents for their load fees, but that is something Council would have to discuss, Oberg said.

Another option would be to install a pipe system that runs past all residences of Lac La Nonne and leads to a lagoon. That way, residents wouldn’t need to hold their sewage in a tank until it is hauled away, but any discussions about this idea are still very preliminary, Oberg said. A project like this is viable, because it could be paid for over the course of perhaps 15 years.