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Public input to help determine issue

Public input is the last stage of Woolwich’s study into the need for municipal water and sewer services in Breslau. The process started two years ago when wells ran dry at dozens of homes in the village core.

At the time, residents blamed grading and drainage activities at the nearby Riverland subdivision for causing shallow wells to stop recharging. Many still hold the developer, Empire Communities, responsible, although the township has absolved the company of any culpability, accepting reports that drought conditions caused the water shortage.

With that position, Woolwich will be looking at homeowners to pay the cost of running water lines and/or sanitary sewers to some 100 houses currently using wells and septic systems. The cost has been estimated at $15,000 per home for water and $30,000 for both municipal services.

At a meeting held last week at Breslau Mennonite Church, the community appeared divided over the issue.

Coun. Murray Martin noted the comments he heard were all over the place, from those who want to do nothing to those who want both water and sanitary sewers installed.

Many of the residents still draw a direct line between the subdivision and their water problems, saying they never experienced dry wells until work began on the 475-home project.

But at a council meeting Tuesday night, chief administrative officer David Brenneman stressed residents should not expect Empire Communities to cover any of the costs associated with servicing the area.

A study of the situation revealed dry weather, not the extensive grading at the site south of the village, caused wells to dry up.

“Some people blame the [developer]. We have not found that to be the case,” he said.

Following the wells running dry in 2007, Empire was required to hire a hydrogeologist and do a study of the impact of its work at the site. That report was subsequently reviewed by another expert, who backed the initial findings, director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley said in a later interview.

“Our position is that the developer doesn’t have any responsibility for paying for the extension of services in Breslau.

That said, both Empire Communities and Thomasfield Homes, which is developing the Hopewell Heights subdivision to the north, will be contributing to the cost of looping the water lines and sewers, allowing for a continuous system throughout the village.

The developers also had large expenses in bringing the services across the river from Kitchener, Kennaley added.

Where last week’s meeting was meant as an information session – part of the servicing study the township is paying $89,000 to Stantec Consulting Ltd. to undertake – another meeting scheduled for next month will focus on feedback from the community.

Kennaley said he hopes to see a good turnout at the Oct. 21 meeting, again at Breslau Mennonite Church, and strong participation in a questionnaire that will be distributed in the village shortly afterward.

If all goes well, a recommendation could be back before council in December. If too few people answer the questionnaires, the township will have to go to another round of collecting feedback, perhaps delaying the report until the following month.

In the meantime, Empire Communities is moving forward with plans for phase two of the Riverland development. The township will be keeping a close eye on that work. It has already put in place a monitoring program to collect pre-construction information about the state of the water table.

As with the first phase, the township wants to prevent any problems with groundwater, said Kennaley.

“We would not have approved changes that contributed to the problem of wells going dry.”

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