You can ride this wave in either direction  /  George Le Masurier photo

The Week: bizarre backstory; great news on sewage planning

Apr 5, 2019 | Commentary

By George Le Masurier

Good morning. Decafnation took a hiatus over the winter. Here are some of the news stories from this week and the last two-and-a-half-months that caught our returning eye.

Bizarre story about the regional water line break

If you get your water through the Comox Valley Water System, you’ve already gotten the bad news. Several holes in the concrete-encased main transmission line running under the Puntledge River means that for 11 days, starting April 12, you can’t use water for anything but drinking, food preparation and personal hygiene.

But the backstory about why it’s taking longer than normal to repair this leak, which has been spilling small amounts of chlorinated water into the Puntledge River since December, has taken a tragic and bizarre twist.

When Comox Valley Regional District staff found the leak, they began planning how to repair it. Fixing a leak in this most difficult section of the pipe to access requires special skills — including a scuba diver doing welding from inside the pipe — and a special valve, neither of which are readily available.

The custom valve was ordered from the Henry Pratt Co., a manufacturer of industrial valves located in Aurora, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. And that’s where the story turns tragic.

In mid-February, a recently-fired 15-year employee of the Pratt Co. walked into the building and started shooting his colleagues, killing five co-workers and wounding five police officers before being shot dead.

The subsequent closure of the plant during police investigations added to production delays caused by losing so many key employees and a necessary period of mourning and counseling.

The new valve is now in hand at the CVRD and the specialized workers have been scheduled. But this is a tricky repair, fraught with myriad things that could still go wrong. Stay tuned.

Not everybody is happy

Mayor Russ Arnott campaigned in last fall’s municipal election on the theme that “people are generally happy” in the Town of Comox. But that has proven not entirely true.

Residents of 17 units at the Mariner Apartments near the former St. Joseph’s hospital site were forced out of their homes by a burst in the town’s water line in January, making many homeless. And they weren’t happy about how the town failed to help them, although a benefit concert and silent auction held in Courtenay provided some relief.

Comox’s d’Esterre Gardens recently tried to evict a woman with cerebral palsy and chronic fatigue syndrome from the low-income seniors housing complex. But an unhappy Zoe Nagler fought back and she won an arbitration case that allows her to stay in the place where she’s lived for the past six years.

And now some council members aren’t happy with the way Arnott has handled council discussions about Mack Laing’s home, called Shakesides, and over disagreements on the implications of a March 6 vote to modify the Laing Trust.

It’s been a rough first five months for the new Comox mayor and council. So the town’s excellent plan to make it easier for Comox residents to add secondary suites and coach houses on their in-town properties comes at a good time.

This new bylaw will create urban density without adding expensive infrastructure, and can help people afford housing during a period of skyrocketing real estate values.

Not everyone is happy about the new housing bylaw, but it’s a good plan.

Good news about sewerage planning

On the advice of CVRD staff, the Courtenay-Comox Sewer Commission stepped back from its formerly ill-advised and patchwork plans last year. Under the direction of CVRD engineer Kris LaRose, legitimate public and technical advisory committees have been working with the WSP engineering consulting company from North Vancouver on a long-term, bigger scope reinvention of how to convey and treat the two municipalities sewage, and reuse it’s resources and byproducts.

The working groups have short-listed a number of options — including several that involve tunneling beneath Comox Road and Lazo Road — all of which would move the main sewage transmission pipes out of the K’omoks estuary. The short-list will be presented to the sewage commission this month.

It’s refreshing to see innovative thinking and 100-year planning where it didn’t exist in the past.

The strength of Jody Wilson-Raybould

It takes courage to speak truth to power. If you’re a woman, it takes even more courage. And if you’re an indigenous woman, it is even more courageous to take on the male-dominated power structure.

But the Comox Valley’s own Jody Wilson-Raybould has that courage. She has taken on the Ottawa-Quebec Liberal Party power base, and its long connections to the Trudeau family, over a fundamental issue of prosecutorial independence.

Anybody who has paid attention knows the story about the allegations of bribes and fraud used by SNC-Lavalin to obtain global engineering contracts. Instead of owning up to what is now obvious political interference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has chosen to launch personal attacks on his former Attorney General.

Was Wilson-Raybould really difficult to work with in caucus, or is Justin Trudeau just not comfortable with a strong woman who refuses to be bullied and bend to his will?

We think it’s the later.



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