Windsor

Wind storm destroys water wells on Pelee Island

Destroyed water wells on Pelee Island are just the latest concern for residents worried about the long-term viability of a place they call home.

'Sometimes it keeps me up at night and we need help,' says Pelee Island Mayor Rick Masse.

A wind storm caused damage to water wells on the eastern shore of Pelee Island. (Submitted)

Destroyed water wells on Pelee Island are just the latest concern for residents worried about the long-term viability of a place they call home.

During a powerful wind storm two weeks ago, many of the wells on the eastern shoreline were destroyed. About 30 per cent of the Pelee Island community was affected by Mother Nature.

"It's a very troubling thought," said Pelee Island Mayor Rick Masse, referring to whether it will be possible to continue residing on the island in the face of ongoing weather damage. "Sometimes it keeps me up at night and we need help."

Water wells on the eastern shore of Pelee Island were damaged by a wind storm two weeks ago. (Submitted)

The ruined wells aren't the kind typically found on the mainland. They're called surface water wells and they are lined around the exterior of the island.

There will be some residents who will have to wait quite a while before their wells can be repaired.- Rick Masse, Pelee Island Mayor

"When these particular wells are too close to the lake, the waves crash into them and they either smash them up or fill them with sand — making them inoperable," said Masse.

Difficult to find island contractors

Fixing those damaged wells will be challenging, because it's not easy to find contractors to work on Pelee Island. The ones already there are "overwhelmed" and it's difficult to get heavy equipment to the island.

About 300 people live on the island year-round, while that grows to 1,500 during the summer months.

"There will be some residents who will have to wait quite a while before their wells can be repaired," said Masse.

Pelee Island Mayor Rick Masse is concerned over the island's long-term viability. (Tom Addison/CBC)

Residents most likely will be stuck with the cost of repairs, Masse said, which is "unfortunate, but it's part of living on the lake."

Pelee Island's operating budget is roughly $1.7 million. By raising property taxes by one per cent, Masse said that will generate an extra $16,000 or $17,000 and "you can't do very much with" that.

"This issue is beyond our economic capacity and we do need upper levels of government to help, to come and try to shore-up Pelee Island," said Masse.

He said it's unlikely residents will ever see a municipal water system, as it's too costly.

Concern over long-term viability

Masse said he's very concerned for his community and what the future holds, especially when it comes to municipal infrastructure. 

Aerial photo of Pelee Island. (Photo courtesy Ontario-Canada-Travel)

In some areas, the lake has eroded shore protection "so bad" that it's up to the main road.

"If we don't get help fixing those areas, we're going to lose that road," said Masse.

The mayor has reached out to upper levels of government for assistance.

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