Stoney Creek resident fighting city over dark, smelly water from deep well
The sulphur smell was overwhelming and the tap water was a cloudy grey during a visit to Jay Filiatrault’s upper Stoney Creek home on June 29.
Filiatrault and his family go through four cases of bottled water a week. The tap water quality is so poor that family members often use bottled water to wash produce and brush their teeth. Bathtub faucets sometimes spew dark, sludgy water. Sinks and bathtubs are discoloured. A toilet bowl in one of the bathrooms is stained black.
Filiatrault, who uses a private well on his property, said the water quality has deteriorated significantly since his supply shifted from a nine-metre shallow well in his driveway to a 30-metre well in his backyard. The new deeper well was necessary after the City of Hamilton began tunnel-boring work for a new sanitary sewer system along Upper Centennial Parkway and Highway 56 in 2015.
In order to create a 22-metre work shaft, city crews must pump water away from the tunnel route, causing significant impact to groundwater levels. The process, known as dewatering, caused several private wells drilled at a lower depth to run dry.
The tunnel boring and related work is expected to wrap up by the spring of 2019. The project will connect new development in Binbrook and upper Stoney Creek to the city’s sanitary sewer system.
To address the groundwater disruption, the city offered homeowners the option of having deeper wells drilled on their properties or using temporary portable cisterns supplied by the city’s contractor. Filiatrault chose a deep well, which was constructed in August 2015.
In the beginning, said Filiatrault, the water tests were normal, but the quality quickly deteriorated.
“Our water was good for about one month. Then it hit us: black, sludgy, smelly water,” he said.
After using only a sediment filter with his old nine-metre well, Filiatrault now has a small room full of water treatment equipment, which he said cost him about $8,000.
“I never had any of these things before,” said Filiatrault. During the last four months, Filiatrault said the high iron and sulphur levels have overwhelmed his filtration system. His home also smells like rotten eggs.
“We can barely stand to stay in our house because of the smell,” said Filiatrault.
Adding bleach to the system is a temporary fix, said Filiatrault, but it only lasts for a day or two. A water treatment company told him his next option would be to install a water chlorination system.
Filiatrault is asking the city to intervene and restore the water quality he enjoyed prior to the construction project.
He’s asked to be reimbursed for the water treatment equipment he purchased, but said he was told the city will not be liable for any issues pertaining to the well installation during or after the construction period. A similar disclaimer appears in a letter he received from the city dated Nov. 3, 2015.
David Mullen, city project manager for the $51-million trunk sewer project, said homeowners were given a choice by the contractor to either accept a new deeper well and a water treatment system, or a temporary water tank.
“Once the work is done, we would put them back onto their existing well when the water table rises back to where it was prior to construction,” Mullen said in a July 5 interview.
“(Homeowners) were basically told that at that point, once the well is drilled, the system is installed and everything is up and running, it’s theirs to maintain at that point thereafter.”
He said about 15 homeowners agreed to have new deeper wells installed by the city’s contractor.
However, Filiatrault said the city never offered to supply his home with a water treatment system. It’s not clear why other homeowners apparently received treatment systems when Filiatrault did not.
An undated acceptance form Filiatrault signed prior to the well installation contains no specific mention of a water filtration system.
He said he must continue using his deeper well after the construction period because his old well was capped and decommissioned.
On July 5, Mullen said if homeowners decide they no longer wish to have a deeper well, for whatever reason, they would be able to explore the options of installing cisterns or re-drilling new wells at shallower depths to access water from a different level in the aquifer.
“That would be all at that homeowner’s expense,” said Mullen.
Jay Filiatrault holds a glass of bottled water, left, and tap water from his well, which is grey and cloudy. At left, a toilet is blackened from his well water.