About 40 Alta Lake Road homeowners are upset that despite being Whistler’s original community they are not hooked up to the municipality’s sewer system.
“This is like Land’s End in England,” Bob Penner said. “The first area settled and the last to get services.”
Thirty-nine properties on the west side of Alta Lake, including a hostel, rely on septic fields or holding tanks to deal with sewage. To reduce water consumption Hostelling International Whistler encourages five-minute showers and sends laundry out for cleaning. Even so, the system is high-maintenance and expensive. Manager Darcy Mackay says the 34-bed hostel, which celebrated its 34 th birthday July 22, sometimes has to be pumped out twice a day at $160 a visit.
“So for our guests paying $20 a night, $10 of that goes toward removing wastewater,” Mackay said.
Gay and Brian Cluer installed a self-purifying wastewater system in their 1993 home. But Gay Cluer said she is concerned about effluent seepage into Alta Lake.
“The lake is stagnant,” she said. “There are a lot more weeds and sludge and every summer more people seem to get duckage (swimmer’s itch).”
Adjacent to the homes, the municipality’s Rainbow Park is also not hooked up to sewer. Whistler spends $8,100 a year having the park’s storage tank pumped out three times a week in the summer and once a month in the winter.
Long-time resident Andy Petersen says the municipality doesn’t place a high priority on the benefits of getting the small community hooked up to the sewer system.
“They’ve got a new fire hall with an environmentally-friendly roof and they buy hybrid cars, but they don’t seem to be really interested in our lakes,” he said.
The municipality’s engineering department said the project is on their to-do list, but funding and the length of the list is troublesome.
“Alta Lake is a significant project, there’s no doubt about that,” said municipal engineer James Hallisey. “But our group is stretched pretty thin right now.”
Hallisey pointed out the 10-member department is currently working on 45 capital projects, including acquiring funding for the $3.24 million Alta Lake Road project. The municipality has applied twice for provincial funding, in 1999 and 2005, and been rejected both times. Costs for the project will be shared between homeowners and the municipality but only if funding can be secured.
“Without a government grant it becomes very expensive,” Hallisey said. “It would be in the neighbourhood of $50,000 for each homeowner out there, which is a ridiculous amount of money.”
But two new funding programs could get the project on track. Details for applying to a federal/provincial infrastructure fund and a federal cities and communities “new deal” initiative are to be announced this fall.
“The Resort Municipality of Whistler will try to maximize our chances of having a successful grant application,” Hallisey said.
In the meantime Whistler’s hostel will continue to send out its laundry.
“If we were a five-star hotel we’d be charging our guests $200 a night and this wouldn’t be so much of an issue,” Mackay said.