Saint John mayor faces angry crowd at west side water meeting

Saint John Mayor Don Darling faced an angry crowd of people regarding a series of plumbing issues west side residents claim are the result of the city's newest infrastructure upgrade.

'Anything being paid — just being straight with you — the ratepayer will pay for it'

A meeting was held Thursday night to discuss plumbing issues west side residents in Saint John claim are the result of the city's latest infrastructure upgrade. (Joseph Tunney/CBC)

Saint John Mayor Don Darling faced an angry crowd of people regarding a series of plumbing issues west side residents claim are the result of the city's newest infrastructure upgrade.

At a Thursday night information session held by the city, some residents outright refused to pay for treatment. Others threatened to bring legal action against the city if something isn't done soon.

"You cannot put something in that water that does damage to the homeowner and expect the homeowner to pay for it," said Rasheed, a resident who lives in the area and spoke to the crowd.

About 5,600 customers on the city's west side were switched over to water drawn from the South Bay Wellfield in September.

"I personally, will visit every ratepayer in this ward and ask you to start a class action lawsuit against the city," Rasheed said in front of the 350 people who attended the meeting.

Mayor not there for simple solutions 

Saint John Mayor Don Darling listened to the complaints, but said he wasn't there to provide simple solutions.

"The city is us," he said. "We pay the bills. And in this case, it's the ratepayers."

Darling said he would be receiving an update about the water issues at Monday night's council meeting.

"If there was going to be a compensation plan — I would say tonight we're not there yet, we have to figure out a lot more information to be informed," he said.

"Anything being paid — just being straight with you — the ratepayer will pay for it."

Concerns flooding in

Several residents say the harder water drawn from aquifers causes plumbing damage, with many pipes bursting from the heavier particles found in the water.

Others claim the water is causing water heater problems, irritated skin and stained dishes.

If there was going to be a compensation plan for residents, Darling said the city isn't there yet. (Joseph Tunney/CBC)

Residents also raised concerns over affordability, long-term upkeep of water softening filters and property values.

Some speakers even brought up how much the leaks and breaks have cost since the fall. One resident in the crowd said it cost him $16,000 to repair the damage at his home.

City staff are working with Dalhousie University and CBCL Engineering to address residents' concerns.    

Saint John Water suspects the water's change in chemicals causes the loss of mineral scaling on older pipes, exposing leaks.

An investigation has also been launched, but its completion is still months away.

For some attendees, those results can't come soon enough.

"I hear all kinds of pleas about why is everyone moving out of town?" said Foster Hammond, who attended Thursday night's event. 

"Here's a good one for the west siders to get out."

With files from Matthew Bingley