Stoney Creek res­i­dent fight­ing city over dark, smelly wa­ter from deep well

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - MIKE PEAR­SON

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.

MIKE PEAR­SON, HAMIL­TON COM­MU­NITY NEWS

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.

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