February 25th, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 8
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Spardell Mobile Home Park residents
fed up with sub-par service
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Stock photo
EZRA BLACK
Pass Herald Reporter
From Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, a Sparwood mother and her three children were living without running water.
She made do transporting water jugs to a neighbour’s house, refilling them every couple days and taking her children down to the Pool and Leisure Centre to shower. She couldn’t flush her toilets, “and in a family of five, that’s kind of disgusting,” she said.
Now she and a handful of other residents of Spardell Mobile Home Park are up in arms over a series of breakdowns in water services that have included boil water advisories, leaking and bursting pipes, Band-Aid fixes, discoloured water, a lack of notification and a landlord who seems unable to keep the faucet running.
The Pass Herald spoke to five Spardell residents. All but one refused to be identified because they feared eviction.
“We had the same water issue in November or December, said the young mother, “But they still had a little trickle so they were able to flush the toilets.”
After another shutdown last year, her water turned a rusty colour. She submitted a photograph of what was coming out of her faucet.
“I was in the middle of doing laundry and I went to fill something out of my tap and that’s what came out,” she said. “We had absolutely no notice for that and it took me a while to clue in that I was doing laundry. So not only did I run that ‘wonderful’ water through my new appliance but I also ran it through an entire load of my family’s clothes.”
“Not having the warning is very frustrating,” she added. “Had they given us a little bit of warning we could have planned for it, I wouldn’t have been doing laundry.”
A male resident who said he’s lived in Spardell for five years claimed his water has been shutting off from hours to days at a time two to three times per month over the last year.
“People are getting frustrated,” he said. “We’re getting sick and tired of seeing Band-Aid fixes. We don’t get any notice that he’s going to shut the water off.”
“Our fix right now is one-inch PVC pipe tied into the trailer,” he added.
District of Sparwood CAO Terry Melcer explained that Spardell trailer park is served by two private water wells, one of which is agricultural. The district is not the purveyor of the water and, as such, is not party to testing or issuing boil water advisories.
Up until several years ago, when the district extended water services down Michel Creek Road, there was not an opportunity for Spardell to connect to the municipal water supply.
“That is a possibility now because we do have water in the area and the potential for them to connect but that hasn’t occurred as of yet,” said Melcer. “Typically a higher-density trailer court like that inside a municipality would be served by municipal water but in this case it was developed with private wells.”
Brittney Nicole Tracy, who lives in Spardell with her boyfriend and son, was the only resident who consented to be identified for this article.
“I don’t trust the quality of the water here,” said Tracy. “I don’t let my son drink it or my boyfriend. Ever since the last boil water advisory, it’s made me really think about it. When the water came back on there was dirt in it, it was rusty looking. I didn’t even want to wash my clothes with it, let alone drink it.”
Tracy’s suspicions might be well founded.
For well over a year, another female resident said she’s been maintaining a dialogue with B.C.’s Interior Health Authority (IHA) and Bill Bennett, MLA for East Kootenay, trying to solve her water issues.
“I’m not getting very far,” she conceded.
Suspecting the quality of her water, the resident sent a sample to Caro Analytical Services, a company that specializes in drinking water testing.
“The lab recommended that I not drink the water,” she said.
Results detected the presence of coliforms in excess of Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guideline
A test conducted June 13, 2014 found three colony forming units per 100 millilitres of water (3 CFU/100 mL). An additional test found 2 CFU/100 mL.
continued below...


The guidelines state coliforms should be non-detectable per 100 mL of drinking water or 0 CFU/100 mL.
A report by the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee on Drinking Water explained that coliforms are a group of bacteria commonly found in soil or vegetation, as well as the intestines of mammals, including humans. They are not likely to cause illness but their presence indicates that the water supply may be vulnerable to contamination by more harmful microorganisms.
The health effects of exposure to bacteria in drinking water area varied but the most common symptoms of waterborne illness include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Infants, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk.
The resident said she would leave Spardell if she could afford to do so.
“It’s hard when there’s nowhere you can afford to move to and you’re stuck in a trailer court with water that’s not drinkable,” she said. “It’s scary because I’m divorced, I’m 55-years old and this is all I could afford to move to… where would I go?”
IHA Spokesperson Robert Birtles explained that in B.C., all water systems are regulated under the Drinking Water Protection Act, which is related to water quality.
“Two total coliforms are something we would definitely pay attention to but we would work with the water supplier to resample at the site,” said Birtles.
“You have to be careful where you take the sample and how you take the sample,” he added. “Was the screen removed off the tap? We often get false positives if people don’t sanitize the taps when they take a sample.”
Spardell residents lodged a complaint with the IHA on Feb. 2 regarding a lack of water, discoloured water, low pressure, improper notifications on water issues and a few other concerns.
That day, an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) asked the owner of the trailer park to put the system on a boil water notification. By Feb. 3 this had not occurred so the EHO attended the trailer court, posted boil water notifications and informed the owner that they were in contravention of section 14 of the Drinking Water Protection Act.
A similar Drinking Water Enforcement Action was levied against Spardell on Dec. 5, 2014. It was also for violating Section 14, which stipulates that a landlord must notify tenants of a threat to the drinking water supply.
Violators can be ticketed at the discretion of the EHO.
The boil water advisory was still in effect at the time of publication.
Birtles said water wells in B.C. are not licensed but that’s changing with the new Water Sustainability Act, which will replace the Water Act. The new laws will be regulated by the Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resource Operations and will be put into effect in 2016.
A government release on the new act said B.C.’s Water Act was established more than one hundred years ago. Although it has evolved over the years, it is no longer adequate to address the growing population, expanding development and changing climate in the province.
Spardell Mobile Home Park owner Rick Pater acknowledged that there have been a higher than usual number of water stoppages in his trailer park and that a number of residents have been complaining.
“All the ones without water were phoning me,” he said. “Some people were very understanding. In fact most people are very understanding.”
But he insisted the water is safe and that he fixes breaks as quickly as possible. He said he’s never been fined by the IHA.
“I’m sympathetic to the tenants that were inconvenienced. It’s certainly nothing I could have planned or foreseen,” said Pater. “All water systems have breaks. The last few years we’ve had a little more than we usually do but normally it doesn’t happen that frequently.”
Pater confirmed that he could have Spardell hooked up to the municipal water system but decided not to because the implied expense would be passed down to the tenants. He estimated it would cost them an additional $25 to $30 per month but said it would not make any difference to the number of water stoppages because the park uses older lines.
“It is impossible to fix the water issue. I cannot redo the lines. If we were using municipal water, the only thing that would change is the cost. It would be higher,” said Pater. “We would have the same number of breaks. In fact there might be more because municipal water pressure is a little higher and I would have problems regulating that.”
Pater said he owns five other trailer parks in the area and that about 115 families live in Spardell, which covers an area of about 35-acres.
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February 25th ~ Vol. 85 No. 8
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