July 11, 2012

ARESST News Blog




Victoria would not be in compliance under new regulations, CRD says
Mike De Souza
Postmedia News; With Files From Cindy Harnett And Judith Lavoie
Victoria Times Colonist
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Letters to editor: letters@timescolonist.com

The Harper government is proceeding with plans to crack down on nearly 150 billion litres of raw sewage dumped every year into Canadian waterways - considered to be a threat to both human and environmental health.

"By ending the practice of dumping raw sewage into our rivers, lakes and oceans, we will improve the health of communities living along waterways, protect our marine life, including our commercial shellfish fisheries, and ensure Canada's water is protected for future generations," said Adam Sweet, a spokesman for Environment Minister Peter Kent.

"This will help make our beaches and recreational waterways safer and will help reduce the burden on our drinking water treatment systems. As a developed, G-8 nation, we need these regulations to end these Third World practices."

After his appointment as federal environment minister in January 2011, Kent was told by bureaucrats that untreated sewage from municipal systems was one of the largest sources of pollution in Canadian waters, with negative effects observed over 20 years on drinking water, swimming areas, fish and wildlife populations and commercial fishing industries.

At the time, Environment Canada told Kent it was "targeting" the spring of 2011 to finalize the regulations, first introduced in draft form in March 2010.

But the government has repeatedly pushed back the adoption of a final plan, saying that it needed more time to get the details right and ensure that municipalities were able to meet baseline standards.

Victoria's dumping of raw sewage - which is sieved through a six-millimetre metal screen before it is piped about a kilometre into the sea - would not be in compliance with the new regulations, according to the Capital Regional District.

The provincial government has already ordered the CRD to treat the sewage, which comes from Victoria, Saanich, Langford, Colwood, Esquimalt, View Royal and Oak Bay. (Central and North Saanich, Sidney, Sooke and the Gulf Islands treat or deal with their own sewage.)

The cost of the secondary treatment plant is being shared equally by the federal government, the province and the CRD. A funding announcement for the federal government's share of the $782-million capital cost is expected before the end of summer. An announcement from the provincial government is expected to follow.

Operating and land acquisition costs would be borne by the participating municipalities, with the estimated property tax burden for homeowners ranging from $100 to $500 a year, the CRD said.

The federal government also was warned by the provinces and territories that taxpayers could wind up paying the multibilliondollar bill for the new regulations.

"Communities do not currently have the resources to meet all requirements and without this flexibility, further financial challenges are created," wrote Chris Collins, former New Brunswick minister of local government, in a letter sent on behalf of his provincial and territorial counterparts to Kent's predecessor, Jim Prentice, in 2010. "These communities will not be able to sustain themselves."

Environment Canada estimated in previously released briefing notes from 2006 that cities would need up to $20 billion over two decades to bring municipal wastewater systems up to standard.

But the federal government has indicated it would give cities with systems considered to be at high risk about 10 years to meet the regulations, while others at lower levels of risk would have 20 or 30 years to bring their system up to the new standard to help them spread out the costs.

Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Denis Lebel has said he is continuing to work with municipalities on delivering a long-term funding plan to help them maintain and upgrade aging local infrastructure.

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, speaking in Victoria on Tuesday, said the federal government should be providing consistent, predictable funding for sewage treatment instead of forcing municipalities to wait for the next government funding program.

"Programs appear and disappear," he said. "The NDP has been talking about providing consistent funding by the transfer of another one cent of the existing gas tax to provide a lot more money for the issues that municipalities can and should be taking care of."

The federal government's role is clear because of its responsibility for navigable waters, Mulcair said.

"I sincerely hope that money will be able to flow here [in Victoria]," he said.




Kyle Wells
Goldstream News Gazette
July 10, 2012 11:11 AM

Colwood is meeting Wednesday night (July 11) to discuss a sewage treatment agreement that could end up costing the city $1.84 million per year for something that won’t be needed for years to come.

The Capital Regional District is getting closer to building a sewer treatment plant in Esquimalt with a limited capacity.

Each municipality in the region is being asked to buy into the plant and to commit to using a specific portion of the capacity for 20 years, essentially reserving capacity not yet being used and paying for the sewage of tomorrow, today.

“The (net) cost of building that has to be divided up amongst everybody in accordance with how much they asked for,” said Michael Baxter, Colwood’s director of engineering.

“So if we ask for a tenth for it, we pay a tenth of the price. If we ask for a fifth of it, we pay a fifth of the price.”

The problem Colwood has is its projected rate of growth. While other communities require a level of sewage services that likely won’t change much in 20 years, Colwood is expecting to grow exponentially.

But it must buy in now for its anticipated needs over the next 20 years.

Colwood could therefore be facing an immediate cost of $1.84 million per year, mostly for sewage that the community would not yet be using, at least initially.

Baxter said that there are two ways to charge that extra cost: either as a fee on those already connected to sewers, which would cost all sewer users around $1,000 a year extra, or to charge all taxpayers, which could potentially increase property taxes by about $215 on average.

“Twenty bucks would be something that they would probably still object to if they’re not using the service,” Baxter said.

“That would give them the ability to connect one day, but when, if the sewer doesn’t come anywhere near their house?”

The province and federal government have agreed to support the project, but the details still have to be revealed by each. CRD chair Geoff Young said that he understands some municipalities might not find the situation ideal, but that the regional district will work with them to try and come up with the best solution.

“When you can foresee that there will be new population it’s crazy to build the plant exactly to the size you need today,” said Young. “The one thing I can say for sure is that we will not have a perfect cost allocation system.”

Langford Coun. Denise Blackwell said her municipality has no concerns with the process and understands that taxpayers will have to front the money in someway in order to bring sewage treatment up to standards and to ensure sewage for future developments.

How that cost will be portioned out in Langford has yet to be determined.

“We have to meet those targets right? We have to do it and we have to pay for it,” Blackwell said. “There’s no better time to do it.”

Colwood council needs to make the final decision on the way to move forward.

This process will being at the Transportation and Public Infrastructure Committee meeting on Wednesday, July 11 at 7 p.m. in city hall (3300 Wishart Road).

Anyone from the public who wants to voice an opinion or idea on the issue is asked to attend.