Owners of Halifax mobile home park under boil-water advisory plead guilty to breaking bylaw

Residents of a Middle Sackville mobile home park who haven't had safe drinking water for years will get a discount on rent this summer as part of a new legal agreement.

Westphal Court Limited recently pleaded guilty in Dartmouth provincial court to operating Springfield Estates without a licence and failing to provide safe drinking water.

"I'm extremely happy to see this decision and it's incredibly satisfying," area Coun. Lisa Blackburn said Thursday.

Halifax Regional Municipality charged Westphal under the Halifax County Mobile Home Park By-law in 2023, after city staff realized that the park owners hadn't had an operating licence for years.

They made the discovery while crafting the city's new land-lease bylaw that had the same water requirements, and added higher standards for construction and operation of mobile home communities.

The park of more than 250 residents has been under a provincial boil-water advisory since 2021 because of cloudiness in the water, and malfunctions of the current system that draws from Little Springfield Lake.

Lisa Blackburn stands in the Woodbine land-lease community on June 23, 2023. Blackburn is the Halifax councillor for Middle/Upper Sackville -Beaver Bank- Lucasville.
Lisa Blackburn is councillor for Middle/Upper Sackville-Beaver Bank-Lucasville. (CBC)

Westphal will be officially sentenced at a later date, but a deal was made to seek a minimal fine in exchange for Westphal cutting tenants' rents in half for June, July, August and September. A staff report said most Springfield tenants pay about $347 a month, so it could bring that down to $173.

Blackburn said the idea came from HRM's legal team. She said it was a great idea because a fine would just go into general revenues.

"Let's keep it in the pockets of the residents who have been the ones who've been suffering without the water for so long," Blackburn said.

The agreement also states that if clean water doesn't flow by June 30, residents are to receive $25 per month for each month until it does.

Lyle Mailman of the Woodbine Community Nova Scotia Non-Profit Society said he heard stories of Springfield water issues long before the boil-water advisory. Residents have had broken water tanks, stained laundry and some have bought their own bottled water.

Water system should be operating by late August

"It's almost like a third-world condition. It's very sad to see," Mailman said. "It's been going on for so long and should have been done a long time ago."

CBC reached out to Westphal Court's lawyer for comment, but did not receive a response.

An update to residents from Springfield management in late May said they have made progress on their new well system, and hope to have water flowing to homes by Aug. 31.

In the meantime, the boil-water advisory remains. Park management will continue delivering bottled water to residents until it's lifted.

'HRM is keeping an eye on land-lease communities'

Ryan Nearing, HRM spokesperson, said the municipality is aware that Westphal is working to get the new water supply approved by Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change, and "is pleased that the permanent fix for the water supply issues in Springfield Estates appears to be on the horizon."

Westphal argued in April that the bottled water should count as providing potable water in a bid to get their operating licence. Councillors rejected that appeal.

Blackburn said this is a proud day for her, as the councillor who revived the new land-lease bylaw project after it dragged inside city hall for more than a decade.

"I think the message is that HRM is keeping an eye on land-lease communities," Blackburn said.

Any tenants dealing with water issues or other problems should always reach out to park management first, Blackburn said. If nothing is resolved, tenants can call the municipality at 311 and staff can investigate.