Numerous residents of River Valley Park, located on Hwy 17 North, that SaultOnline visited with on Saturday, July 22, 2017 were stating emphatic support for the current owner of River Valley Park. Further to that, several residents stated that it appears to them no amount of work and effort by the owner, River Valley Park Inc., seems to be enough for the Algoma Public Health (APH) and The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).
To say the combined stress level of residents is at a maximum would be an understatement. Each of the residents at River Valley Park are facing uncertainty and financial hardship if forced to relocate. They say that at no time, has Algoma Public Health or The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, called a meeting for residents to come together and learn about the issues as a collective group.
“A lot of these people have been here for over 30 years. They have nowhere to go – no way to fund removal of their home. Many are on ‘disability’ (ODSP) or retired. These are our homes. We have a mortgage and renovation loans to consider here. What are we supposed to do? We aren’t tenants here. We are homeowners – with yards and years of accumulated living. Moving a mobile home? – No way – We’re not going anywhere. This is my home. We’re staying put. It’s not fair.” shared one homeowner who asked not to be identified.
“In fact, a tiny piece of paper was stuck in our door in mid June, (2017) and it blew away.” The individual is referring to a notice that was slipped into the screen door of her home, and was issued from Algoma Public Health. The individual believes that the note was left on either June 13th or 14th, 2017 and identified August 31st as a date for park closure.
“Our neighbor was the one who asked us if we got the notice. We were like – What notice? We found it in the yard. It had blown away. What kind of people do that? Why didn’t someone come here and speak to us directly? This is major – we weren’t given 6 months. No way. Mid June does not make it 6 months til August 31st . The whole thing stinks, and we’re the ones paying now for the mismanagement of former owners.”
Many residents stated that they think that APH and MOECC have already made up their minds and that the current owner, Harjeet Dusanjh, who has appealed the decision for park closure hasn’t got a prayer of winning on the August 10th appeal date.
SaultOnline heard several times that the previous owners are to blame for a chronic lack of effort to keep both drinking water and septic systems running efficiently. Several homeowners stated that the current owner began making upgrades and improvements to the water and septic systems immediately upon taking over ownership of River Valley Park in August, 2014.
“The people who owned the park before the new owners were supposed to have done the work. They (former owners) signed off saying it was done and when the new owner took it over – 3 months later – they (APH) were going after him to fix it (septic). The work down below (septic) was supposed to have been done.” stated another park resident, who, for over 30 years, has lived through various owners.
“On Thursday, July 20th, 2017, there was a meeting with legal aid lawyers for us.” said Robert Hamilton, a resident of the park for over 24 years. “The lawyers told us that the owner is facing a big fine every day (after August 31st, 2017).”
“I was talking with the landlord right here in my driveway a couple of weeks ago.” stated another resident of the park. “The owner told me that he has submitted engineering reports and another proposal forward (to MOECC). With the money that they have already invested here (owners), they have no intention of shutting it down. They want him to build a new septic system, and he doesn’t understand why the Engineers Report that has designed an upgrade to the existing system, wasn’t good enough.”
“River Valley Park Inc. contracted with Kresin Engineering who designed a sophisticated system and they (APH) sent it back as incomplete. Now they want an environmental impact assessment done – something they did not specify when first ordered to fix the septic system.” The Engineering Reports were ready and submitted to MOECC in March, 2017.
“This issue (septic) was first indicated in the Spring of 2014 and the owner of (then) Shetland Park – was ordered to replace a leeching bed on the south side. As far as I can tell, they were not asked to do an environmental assessment. Then comes August, 2014 – shortly after the new owner bought the park – they (APH) discovered that there was a modification of the system. He (Harjeet Dusanjh) had just bought the park. He didn’t modify the system.”
“In early 2015, March 10th, there was a leech out to the road, and an inspector from MOECC was called. The inspector found out that the pump needed to be replaced. The owner bought two new pumps which he ordered from Toronto. Then four days later they (MOECC) discovered that the pump had been manually turned off by someone. To this day, no one knows who turned off the pump – it wasn’t pump failure at all. But the owner went ahead and replaced the old pump anyway and installed a back-up pump, so that there wouldn’t be another problem. The MOECC inspected everything. He (Harjeet) replaced the pump immediately – he didn’t hesitate. I was here when it happened, and watched them installing the new pumps. When the pump was turned off, the sewage comes up and goes into the leeching bed, and that is the reason there was leaking. It wasn’t pump failure – someone had basically ‘sabotaged’ the system. To this day, no one knows who did that.” stated a homeowner who did not want to be identified.
James Sloan and his wife moved into the park in June, 2017. James Sloan has been going through the official records for River Valley Park and former Shetland Park. “In 2015, the new owner (Harjeet) replaced the entire drinking water system because there had been boiled water advisory here for years. The former owners – it appears – did nothing or very little to fix that problem.”
In fact, Mr. Dusanjh told SautOnline that the water system was replaced to the tune of $120.000 in spring 2015 – as soon as it was possible to get the work done. “It was a priority for me to get these people clean drinking water. I promised them I would do it when I took over, and I did it.”
“In early 2017, professional engineers drawings were done” shared James Sloan. “The drawings are beautiful – I’ve seen them. It’s an up-to-date system. Why does this person have to now do an environmental assessment based on parameters that have been working since 1985 in a park that is now smaller than it was when it was originally designed. He’s putting in a new system that is either equal to – or better than – the original system.” he said. “And you have to remember that we only have so many months to work on things like this due to our climate in the north.”
“People were driving over the leeching bed, and the former owner put a barrier up so people would stop driving over the leeching bed with snow machines and ATV’s. The new owner (Harjeet) built a berm so that people would stop going over the leeching bed. He’s actually taken extra steps to ensure the safety of the septic system.”
“The EPA assessment has delayed everything for him to install the new septic system that the engineers report has designed. Now we have to wait another 5 or 6 weeks. Why should we have to move when the owner is trying to do everything he can to fix this?”
“Also – there is a tribunal in Toronto, August 10th, 2017, that the owner is scheduled to attend.”
“In the meantime, the owner has been pumping out the septic tanks every week – we have witnessed this or seen the ‘tickets’ to prove that he has been doing this. This is an extra step to ensure that there is no leeching. The septic system isn’t even handling the same amount of waste as it was when first designed because the park is 36% smaller. The records (written logs of septic system emptying) ended up temporarily being incomplete because the park manager had to go to Toronto for medical treatments. He is still there, and is undergoing treatments for serious illness. We have no idea when, or even if – he will be able to come back and assume the management of the day-to-day operations here.”
“How does a system that was supposed to have the pumps replaced suddenly become deemed as ‘failed’? And people are saying that he (owner) hasn’t been doing anything to fix the system? In August 2014, when he bought the park, there was an inspection done of the septic system and the system was passed.”
“Where are we supposed to go? What is so wrong with working with the new owner to get everything right? He has demonstrated a willingness to work with APH and MOECC, and is trying his best to fix the problem based on a process that takes weeks – if not months – to get approval for.”
“In March 3, 2017, at an extraordinary cost to the owner, he had Engineering reports done. In May, 2017 – I was reading a report from the MOECC – the MOECC came back telling him he needed engineering reports, but they were already done and submitted.”
“The engineers came in and looked at the system and came up with a plan to replace the entire system. Why couldn’t they use the parameters of the existing system – meaning size and shape? Now they want an Environmental Assessment done.
“He built a berm with sand that he wasn’t ordered to do, to prevent potential leeching onto the road. He’s done extra work above the orders of MOECC. All he’s waiting for is the okay to get started.” said James Sloan.
“It’s one loophole after another” stated a resident. “He’s been told he needed to replace the pumps which he did – Then he was told he needed to replace the (septic) bed – which he did – Then he was told he needed Engineering reports – which he’s done – Then he built a berm – Now he pumps out the septic weekly. And it’s still not good enough for APH and MOECC. In mid June – we get a notice that we are all expected to leave here by August 31st, 2017.
“The MOECC application that was returned to him in June, 2017 said that something was missing. Well – they didn’t even tell him what was missing.” shared James Sloan. “I went through the application and asked an MOECC representative that was here one day – ‘Is the environmental assessment the part that is missing’? – And they said yes. Nobody from the MOECC actually offered that information. I had to ask the question and they told me that he (Harjeet) would have to get an environmental assessment done.”
“One of the other issues that the MOECC is stating is that because he went to the head office of the MOECC in Toronto, and didn’t send a copy to the local district office here in The Sault, that he was somehow at fault for that. And they (MOECC) have the obligation of assisting in the filling in of the MOECC application. These people are getting paid to assist people for these very reasons. How is Harjeet supposed to know what is missing if nobody tells him. – He doesn’t know the questions to ask – nor should he have to know – They are the experts supposedly in making these applications.”
“The MOECC has the ability to speed up the process so that Harjeet can get started on replacing the system.”
“How are we supposed to move our house? We aren’t renters – we aren’t tenants – We are homeowners. I have a mortgage and loans. This house isn’t on wheels and ready to roll down the road. How are we supposed to move an entire neighborhood?” queried James Sloan.
“Is there a hidden agenda here?” asked one of the residents who asked to not be named. “How is he expected to keep up with all of the things being thrown at him?”
“He (Harjeet) has demonstrated good faith and good will towards us – He encourages us to build a community here.” said Faith Hackney, a single mom and homeowner.
“He has created a play area with swings for the children here.”
“These people in the APH and MOECC are detrimentally affecting my life. I don’t sleep anymore – This is killing all of us. I feel sick every day.”
SaultOnline will continue to follow the story and update readers as the residents of River Valley Park move ever closer to the August 31st, 2017 imposed deadline.
Below is a statement from River Valley Park Inc.’s owner, Mr. Harjeet Dusanjh.
The story starts in back 2014 when I bought this park through Century 21 Realty from Sault Ste. Marie. At the time they hid all the information and didn’t let me meet with any of the tenants. We came to know about the situation when the deal was on the lawyers table. It required work to be done to be cleared for work by Ministry of Environment (MOECC). We held back closing a couple of months but what had happened was that Hellen Mayer, a member of the council, just did a little work on the tile bed and the Ministry of Environment (MOECC) revoked the work order and that deal was closed right after I took over in August (2014).
Representatives from the Ministry came back to inspect the park and told me that the sewer system is not in good condition and cannot proceed with work with this problem. I was unaware of the situation because when I bought the park there was no information about a sewer problem in the property and now they are telling me that it is not in good condition. That’s when they started bothering and making me fix the sewer system along-side the other work we had, which was to fix the water line and take care of the electric problem because the park was on water boil advisory. Above all, we fixed the water line, the electric problem and as well as the roads in the property. We spent an amount in excess of a hundred thousand dollars.
Furthermore, in 2015 when I did some work on sewer system a lady named Kira Fry from the Ministry of Environment (MOECC) started harassing me and threatened me that she would have the park closed. Additionally, she told me that she would kick me out from Sault Ste. Marie and made a complaint to one of the seniors, and I said that I didn’t feel comfortable doing work with her but they didn’t listen to me. Then they called me to their office for a meeting where all the people from Algoma Health and Ministry of environment were there. Kara Flannigan was present in the meeting and they all asked me to replace the sewer system with a whole new system. I offered to rebuild the same system and fix it then asked them to grant me permission but they said no because the system is altered but when I asked them why they gave permission to the previous owner and why I couldn’t get permission, they said no and said it has to be a new system and the new sewer system will cost over five hundred thousand dollars. That cost is more than the entire property.
After that I called three contractors to do the work. As soon as they contacted Kira Fry they refused to work. When ask one of them why they refused, he replied that he would lose his license if he worked there, she told them not to touch this. Before they ordered us to pump the tank and if the water leaked but now they told me to order a pump every week no matter how much it costs, the cost was too much.
I hired Kresin Engineering firm to do work on my project and Kira Fry gave him new orders every time he was doing something, one time they told me that they cannot work with her because as soon as they finished the work she told them to do this again and I spent $27,000 on the fee. The application meanwhile when my engineer asked to give some more time in May, she didn’t answer.
In the last meeting on July 14, 2017 she told us to do some more work which cost around $30,000 though she and they have not given any surety that we will get permission and because Kira Fry built a case along with Kara Flannigan against the property and they sent me a letter on June 8th, 2017 to close the park. Additionally they went door to door and threaten my tenants that they will cut the hydro, water supply and kick them out from the park with police. Although they shouldn’t come on my property unless there is any complaint, but they keep coming and threatening us again and again.
With me they are so rude as well as racist and I feel really unappreciated, because of the racism, 35 home owners will go homeless. In the meeting held on Thursday July 21 2017 at the tenants meeting they were telling the tenants that no matter what I do they will not give permission and I have to show five hundred thousand dollars in my account. They also threaten me that if I keep the tenants they will fine me $25,000 everyday, which means they don’t care about the 35 families and are treating them as second class citizens. Lastly, I feel that a big fraud and racism happened with the involvement of the Ministry people.
I am attaching the closing order which explains no matter what work I do they will close the park. I do appeal for the hearing is coming soon I will let u know what will happen but right now they are closing the park on August 31 2017 by law according to the landlord and tenant board act 50 and they have to give 1year time to our tenants to move out of their trailer homes and you can check it yourself. Thank you for your time and with your help we can solve this problem.
River valley Park Inc.