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Residents complain of disruptive construction

South Fork Road residents may get fire hydrants they’ve asked for to diminish safety concerns expressed over chlorine tanks that will be stored at the city’s new water treatment centre, but council only offered an apology for the disruptive construction.

Janette Pongratz-Doyle, speaking on behalf of more than a dozen nearby residents, said the five-month construction project of installing pipes along driveway entrances has created “nerve-wracking conditions” for residents, who she says have to drive more than 60 kilometres to get their mail due to road closures.

“Normally it takes us 10 minutes,” she said. “Now it takes 50 minutes to one hour. One neighbour got to within one minute of her house and was told she had to go back around. That was a 39-kilometre trip.”

Despite the inconveniences, residents are also worried that the construction will affect emergency services gaining access to the area, and that chlorine tanks stored at the treatment centre, about 400 metres from homes, will create a fire hazard. Pongratz-Doyle pointed out that the forested interface area has seen its share of bush fires over the past three years – 30 to 50 have been recorded, some suspicious – and residents are concerned a forest fire could create a potential disaster if the chlorine tanks are breached.

Coun. Ted Greves, a former firefighter, said his research says that the chlorine being used is an oxidizer, and therefore not flammable, posing no risk to residents. He added that the tanks would be properly contained and stored, with sprinkler systems, to mitigate danger potential.

“It’s not like it’s going to go boom,” he said.

Greves added that construction employees working on the project said crews quickly clear the road if emergency services need to pass through, and that there are alternative road options for residents to use when the affected road is not passable.

“Nobody up there is land-locked,” he said. “It’s messy, it’s bumpy, and there are waits, but it all seems to boil down to an inconvenience.”

Nevertheless, council did support the residents’ wishes of having two or three fire hydrants installed at a cost of $4,000 each, as long as taxpayers of the Regional District of Nanaimopicked up the tab.

Joe Stanhope, RDN chairman, sent a letter to Nanaimo city council indicating the district would explore ways to pay for the hydrants.

Even though the disruptions and fire concerns are a result of the new $65-million water treatment facility, city manager Al Kenning said hooking nearby residents up to city water is likely not an option.

That doesn’t sit well with Mike Gogo, whose family has owned property in the area for more than 100 years.

“I don’t need any of their water, they can drown in it for all I care,” said Gogo. “But there is all kinds of precedents for water outside the city, examples being  … Extension, Cedar and all the rest of it. But they aren’t being bothered by this, we are.

“Why does Nanaimo have exclusive rights to water that is out behind these people’s property? The reservoir isn’t in Nanaimo, the pipeline isn’t in Nanaimo, the water treatment plant isn’t in Nanaimo but Nanaimo gets the water and the people around here don’t? We’re the first potential client on the line and we get sweet [expletive] all.”

The road portion of the project is expected to be completed in three months with the rest of the project expected to be done in five months. The water treatment plant is scheduled to go online in spring 2015.

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