In more Nova Scotia news, Halifax Water has filed an application with the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (NSUARB) requesting an increase in rates to wastewater and stormwater services..

The victim of problems with its new-ish sewage treatment plant, Halifax Water claims that a rate increase (the first in three years) is needed to carry out vital work on Halifax Regional Municipality’s (HRM) aging and rapidly deteriorating wastewater and stormwater systems, and meet operating costs.

“The fact is that the current rate structure will not fund the necessary steps we need to take to protect the health of HRM residents and our environment,” said Carl Yates, general manager of Halifax Water. “This rate application will ensure the wastewater and stormwater rate structure is fair and equitable and based on a user pay system.”

Halifax Water assumed responsibility of HRM’s wastewater and stormwater assets August 1, 2007. In March 2008 the NSUARB ordered a Cost of Service Study (COSS) to review the rates to determine if services are billed in a fair and equitable manner, and sufficient funding is in place to provide services in safe operating order that are in compliance with current and pending national standards.

“We have some of the oldest infrastructure in North America,” said Mr.Yates. “Many of the underground pipes that carry our wastewater and stormwater are over 100 years old and in desperate need of repair or replacement.”

The proposed rate structure would apply to all customers. If the application is approved, the average HRM household – which makes up 93 per cent of Halifax Water customers – would see rates rise by $8.64/month or $.31 cents/day on October 1, 2010, and an additional increase of $7.60/month or $.25 cents/day on April 1, 2011. While the COSS findings reveal that industrial, commercial, multi-residential and institutional customers have been subsidizing residential customers for wastewater, they have not been paying their share for stormwater service. The user pay proposed rate structure will reconcile these differences and represent varying rate increases for these businesses.

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“The cost to our environment and to future generations of doing nothing far outweighs the cost of acting now,” said Blaine Rooney, director of finance and customer service, Halifax Water, who pointed out that even with the increased rates, HRM residents would still pay lower rates than residents of comparable municipalities across Canada.

The proposed rate structure conforms to the findings of the COSS. The NSUARB will hold a hearing June 7-9, 2010, and a decision is expected in September.

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