$4K water bill catches some Pugwash residents off guard

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$4K water bill catches some Pugwash residents off guard

A homeowner in Pugwash, N.S., says she and many of her neighbours have been blindsided by a more than $4,000 charge for water service they do not need.

The seaside community on the Northumberland Strait is in the final stages of a $15-million infrastructure project bringing clean drinking water to the village. The project will be completed this fall.

The water line will also bring a one-time $4,054 service fee for 60 homeowners added in the project's second phase.

"I'm not against the water project, I just don't think I should pay if I don't hook up," said Marilyn Sexton, who lives on Gulfshore Road just outside Pugwash.

She said she canvassed immediate neighbours and most did not know about the bill — announced by council in March — and do not intend to connect to the water line.

"I personally feel I do not need it. I have a brand-new home here, it's less than five years old. I am paying for a well that I had installed and my water quality is great," she said.

The Municipality of Cumberland County said more than half the homes in the area have traces of arsenic and uranium in their drinking water, some at levels exceeding Health Canada guidelines.

That's what local resident Bob O'Connell of Pugwash Point Road found when his water was tested. He supports the project.

"The report for this property indicates that we have excessive amounts of uranium and arsenic in our water. So it's a no-brainer," O'Connell said.

Warden Al Gillis said it's reasonable to ask residents to pay a share of costs.

In this case it is about eight per cent of the overall project which will deliver much needed potable water to the area.

"It has a health impact for sure; that's a positive. But it will also have an impact on industrial development, economic development in the local area. A lot of this has been held up because there is no potable water," Gillis said.

The charge is on the agenda at the next meeting of Cumberland County council Wednesday.