When the approximately 50 homeowners on the east end of Grenfell Heights in Grand Falls-Windsor purchased their land, they did so knowing their property was not attached to the town’s sewer system.
It was a tradeoff, of sorts, Jeff Saunders, the town’s director of engineering, told The Advertiser.
From 364 Grenfell Heights down to the turnoff for New Bay Road, would-be homeowners got almost an acre of land at a reduced cost. With it came the responsibility of putting in their own sanitary sewer system.
“The gravity feed ends at number 364. That was the end of the sewer line that went down there,” Saunders said in an interview earlier this week.
“For years that area wasn’t developed because it wasn’t connected to a sewer. Our development regulations at the time said any residential development had to be connected to a town system.”
After some pressure from residents, Saunders said, the town changed its zoning laws to allow land to be purchased past the end of the sewer services. The lots were designed so homeowners would have access to water, but have to put in their own on-site services.
Eugene Nippard, his partner and her son have been living at their home on 368 Grenfell Heights for three years. Like their neighbours, Nippard has his own sanitary sewer system with a design approved by the government and professionally installed.
In the last two years, however, Nippard said, the family has had to deal with six sewer backups, putting unnecessary stress and financial hardship on the family. “I’ve had six backups in the basement. I’ve had to get down on my hands and knees and clean up (waste). I’ve actually gotten sick from the gas,” Nippard said. “We could get (cleaners) in there, but that costs a barrel of money, and after so many times the insurance won’t cover it. We’ve a beautiful home, full basement, and we can’t even put in a rec room down there.”
Nippard said the trouble with his septic system means he and his partner can’t leave town for more than a night out of fear of another backup.
“My daughter wants to build a house down below us now, but because of all the trouble we’ve been through she don’t want to do it,” Nippard said.
After some sewage trouble in recent years, Nippard said, the Department of Education is paying to put in a new sewer system and lift station on-site at Exploits Valley High, located at 392 Grenfell Heights, which will pump into existing sewage infrastructure.
Nippard said this could have been an opportunity to hook homes in the area to the town system, but it doesn’t appear that’s going to happen.
“They’re going to spend millions to put a system in the school and pump it back up from across the road from where we live, and pump it out to the sewer, and they’re not going to tie in no houses,” Nippard said. “All they have to do is put a gravity-flow system from 364 down to the school and then they can force it back with the force pump that they’re using.”
Nippard said his family pays close to $2,000 a year in municipal taxes, and he thinks it’s time they started benefiting from the sewer services available to the rest of the town.
Saunders said while it’s unfortunate Nippard is experiencing problems with his sewage, each lot owner is responsible for the installation and maintenance of their own systems. He said Nippard is the only homeowner who has made complaints to the town about the sewage system, and residents knew there were no plans for sewage when they purchased their lot.
“If you were to service that area today, from the end of the existing system down to the end of the town’s boundary, you’re looking at the range of a couple of million dollars, probably $25,000-30,000 per lot. And that’s more than some people paid for their lots from the Crown,” he said.
Saunders said if the town had had any intention to service the lots, they would have been designed much smaller and closer together, and the lots would have been more expensive.
“It’s not how these lots were developed, and it was never part of the plan,” he said.
Saunders said when any new subdivision is built, the developer does all the servicing and the cost for that work is transferred to the person buying the land.
“If you go out on Harmsworth Drive or McCarthy Street and buy a new lot, you are paying $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 for your lot, depending on the size, and you are paying for the water and sewer and sidewalk and street that’s already been done,” Saunders said. “Why would the taxpayers of Grand Falls-Windsor pay $2 million to service lots (when) someone else got their revenue for the land sale? The Town of Grand Falls-Windsor did got not get one cent from revenue through the sale of that land.”
Nippard, however, maintains something should be done.
“Grenfell Heights, it’s the longest street in town, the most populated street in town, and one of the most beautiful in town. People are building houses there left and right,” he said “And in this day and age we’re operating on septic tanks. It’s crazy.”