CORNER BROOK — The lack of any mention of wastewater in the city’s recent announcement of a deal to build its new water treatment system didn’t surprise the co-chairperson of the Corner Brook sewage treatment committee isn’t concerned.
Sheldon Peddle, of ACAP Humber Arm, said he wasn’t expecting any news regarding wastewater when the city announced its deal with Pomerleau Inc. Friday, since many municipalities have made it clear the intention is to tackle the water issue first before moving on to sewage treatment.
The project is expected to cost the city roughly $20 million of an estimated $43 million to design and build the plant section of the new system.
ACAP Humber Arm has partnered with the city on the sewage treatment committee. Peddle said the city appears committed to putting a plan in place, particularly in light of new federal regulations which were implemented in July.
The regulations set timelines for levels of treatment required by communities, and government will impose fines on communities which fail to meet the requirements for wastewater being released into bodies of water.
While the city has been talking about sewage treatment as a priority for years, even implementing a phased-in approach in 2006, all communities are being forced into action now.
“There’s certainly a heightened urgency,” Peddle said Monday. “Sewage treatment is expensive and we don’t want to have to pay financial penalties because we aren’t compliant. That would be a waste of money.”
With an estimated price tag of as much as $60 million according to the 2006 report, Peddle believes cost will be an issue for all communities to meet what is expected to be a 2020 deadline. Thanks to the 2006 plan, Peddle said the city isn’t starting from scratch and along with the sewage committee, can now look at what minor tweaks are needed to bring the previous plan up-to-date.
Scramble for funding
Peddle said federal funding will be required from all municipalities to meet the new stringent deadlines, something which hasn’t been announced yet. Once the funding is announced, he expects communities around the country to scramble for funds and said it’s important for the city to move as quickly as possible to start lobbying both the provincial and federal government.
“I see great strategic value in us being among the first knocking on the federal government’s door,” he said, noting that even with a three-way finding split between municipal, federal and provincial government levels, the plan could cost the city as much as $20 million. “The need for funding is going to be much greater than the amount of funding available.
“So let’s get in there, let’s get it as soon as we possibly can.”
Given the size of the city, Peddle said there’s no reason why both the water and sewage treatment project couldn’t be done concurrently and ACAP remains prepared to play whatever role the city feels is appropriate in fine-tuning and lobbying in support of the plan.
In order to take some of the burden off taxpayers, Peddle said it’s important to be innovative and examine all options, including piggy-backing with the effluent treatment process at Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, if possible. Another option could be using a similar innovative strategy under the Public Tendering Act which saw a design-build model rather than the typical design-bid-build model in securing the tender for the water treatment plant.
“We really shouldn’t rule anything out at this stage,” he said. “Let’s just see how we can get this done and meet the deadlines at the lowest possible cost for residents.”
Meanwhile, Simon Jansen of the Western Environment Centre was unavailable for comment Monday. However, in a written statement, Jansen said while it’s taking time, he’s confident the sewage treatment committee remains on the right track for an eventual solution to the sewage treatment issue.
"Of course it would have been great to have sewage treatment earlier,” Jansen said.
“It is a vital link to make our footprint more sustainable. But we also understand that municipal, provincial and federal levels working together takes time.
“We support the efforts of the city and ACAP Humber Arm on this matter and hope that a solution to sewage treatment can be found in the very near future."