The mayors of municipalities across Atlantic Canada met in Halifax last week to discuss, among other things, funding for wastewater projects. With government imposed deadlines for municipalities to meet wastewater regulations looming, infrastructure spending took centre stage. The mayors are pushing for a more vocal role in discussions with Ottawa and the provinces concerning funding.
Conception Bay South Mayor Woodrow French summed up the looming challenge that faces many east coast municipalities. “Cities and communities across Atlantic Canada face looming costs to comply with federal wastewater regulations,” he said. “We want to do our part for the environment but we also need to direct scarce municipal dollars to programs, services and capital projects that benefit citizens and help build the local economy.”
Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside echoed Mayor French’s statement. “While the goals of the wastewater regulations are laudable,” he said, “municipalities and their water utilities face crippling costs that will be passed on to residents through taxes of water rates. We’re urging Ottawa and the provinces to talk with us about how we work cooperatively to share the cost of compliance just as we share the benefit of the environment.”
The federal government released its Wastewater System Effluent Regulations (WSER) in July 2012. WSER aims to upgrade wastewater systems nationwide. Most municipalities have a 2040 deadline for bringing their systems up to par, with high risk municipalities being asked to do so by 2020. The combined cost of the program is estimated to be more than $20 billion.
Watch for more on WSER compliance in Water Canada’s May/June 2013 issue.