Ellen Alston from De Winton, Alberta, sues over alleged polluted drinking water in M.D. Foothills

Rural homeowner files $8M lawsuit over tainted water claims by Canada.com, May 31, 2013, Calgary Herald
Ellen Alston and her common-law partner abandoned their dream De Winton home three years ago after they say they became physically ill from drinking water contaminated with E. coli. The couple is suing the Municipal District of Foothills, claiming the house was allowed to be built on land that lacks adequate drainage. In a statement of claim, the couple says the property has become a “putrid, foul smelling slough” – the result of water collected south of an adjacent roadway mixing with manure from the nearby De Winton Riding Club. …

[Alston] filed the lawsuit in 2010, but decided to go public with the matter Friday because she believes others in the community may be at risk. “I have a moral obligation to inform the rest of the community of the toxicity of my well and my property,” she said.

The M.D. of Foothills has denied any wrongdoing. In statement of defence, it said did not “breach any duty of care relating to the design and construction of the roadway or approval of the subdivision” in which [Alston’s] property is located. It also denied the allegations the site is contaminated. “We don’t believe she has a valid claim,” said municipal manager Harry Rivs Cambrin.

“People have the opportunity through Alberta Health Services to have their water tested on an annual basis, or to go to a private lab. We’re not aware of anybody who has had an issue.”

A spokeswoman for Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development decline to comment on the case. According to Alston, the province agreed to test the water on her property but told her the results showed nothing unusual on her property. But she alleges that samples taken at her own request from the same laboratory company came to a different conclusion.  She claims she later went to two additional labs, which confirmed the water is polluted. He lawsuit seeks $7.5 million in general damages and an additional $500,000 punitive award. It has yet to go before the courts.

In the meantime, Alston said the situation has taken an emotional and physical toll. She is unable to live in her De Winto house or sell it. [Emphasis added]

De Winton woman sues over alleged polluted water by CBC News, May 31, 2013
A woman who owns a home in De Winton, south of Calgary, is suing the Municipal District of Foothills because she says it is responsible for polluting her water. “We left our home three years ago. I could hardly get out of bed by the time we had to leave,” she said, who alleges the water on her rural property is full of E. coli, nitrates and bacteria. Alston believes the pollution is due to manure in the area as her home is located across the road from the De Winton Riding Club. “This watershed needs to be fixed. This is a major flood zone watershed,” she said. “That is third-world quality pollution that is sitting on my property.” She had the water tested and says the report indicates there is contamination. But Harry Riva-Cambrin, municipal manager of the M.D. of Foothills, told CBC News there is no evidence to support the claim. Neighbour Randy Hill has not had any problems with his water. “I’ve had zero issues, period, of any kind with the water. It’s perfect. We have had it checked just to make sure. Alston wants the M.D. to fix the problem or buy her house.

[Refer also to:

website snap alston v MD Foothills

Subsequently, in 2010 a landowner has filed an $8,000,000 (eight million dollar) law suit against the M.D. of Foothills No. 31 (See “Alston et al Vs. The Municipal District of Foothills No. 31 – Action No. 1001-10269 – Court of Queens Bench – Judicial District of Calgary”) for causing the contamination of the surface lands and potable well water source of the residential property located on the northwest corner of the intersection of 250 Avenue and 24 Street SE in the MD of Foothills.


March 30, 2009:  A letter from AB Environment to Alston charges her with tampering with a wetland and threatens a fine of $50,000.

April 30, 2009:  At a meeting attended by two AB Environment representatives, Alston, and her private investigator, the AB Environment representatives are told of the water pollution.  They leave, and are not heard from again.  It is later revealed that the MD sent AB Environment to intimidate Alston.

2010:  MD allows Riding Club to undertake landscape excavation to improve drainage of its land, without environmental approval.  Excavators create a large trench which drains animal waste directly into the adjoining ditch and pond.  With the release of the waste, Alston and her partner become so ill that their doctor orders them to abandon the property.

June 2010:  Alston hires private laboratories to commence water testing on her property.

July 2010:  Alston files suit against the MD of Foothills.   Her lawyer also writes to the Ministers of Environment and Health requesting assistance.  Both respond denying that any problem exists.  But Alston has test results from the same lab used by AB Environment – from the same time AENV had her water tested – indicating massive contamination.

Fall 2010:  AB Environment’s regional representative demands the results of the water tests.  Alston’s lawyer invites the representative to his office to view the test results.  The offer is declined.

May 6, 2011:  Alston receives a letter from AB Environment closing the file, stating there is no surface or groundwater contamination on the property.

2011:  Private water tests confirm high levels of total coliforms, E.coli and nitrate contamination.  Test results are given to the MD in the fall of 2011.  MD takes no action.

December 2011:  As part of the discovery process in the lawsuit, Alston’s lawyer presents the MD with a list of more than 40 relevant documents it will be required to turn over.

November 2012:  Alston receives completed law, hydrology and technical research on manure pollution related to her property.  All professionals advise her to keep off the property and let the grass grow to absorb the bacteria into the vegetation.

April 2013:  More than 15 months after being given notice to turn over relevant documents, and despite municipalities’ legal requirement to keep documents under the Municipal Government Act, the MD reveals that over half the documents cannot be found.

April 25, 2013:  Alston receives an Unsightly Property citation from the MD for grass that has not been mowed. ]

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