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Wastewater monitoring policy makes little sense: Brigus town manager

Last year, the Town of Brigus paid an outside company to monitor the town’s wastewater effluent in accordance with federal regulations. As expected, the town has some work to do to meet the quality standards outlined under the Fisheries Act.

The Town of Carbonear recently upgraded its lift station for wastewater. Towns throughout the Trinity-Conception-Placentia will need to consider what steps they’ll be taking to comply with federal regulations for wastewater quality introduced within the last few years. Photo by Andrew Robinson/The Compass

The goal is to get secondary treatment in place for these municipalities, and Brigus town manager Wayne Rose sees value in that.

“I had no problem in year one to do the monitoring and see where we stood to on the greater scale, but now that we already know that there’s no coming back and that it’s where it is, we need now to be going to the next level. OK, how do we now come up with this wastewater treatment facility? They’re more or less saying, we don’t really care about that, you have to keep on monitoring.”

Rose believes if a town already knows it’s not complying with the regulations, it makes little sense to monitor wastewater effluent on an annual basis. He would instead like to see that $10,000 the town spends annually go towards a cost-shared facility.

“If I’m (testing) for the next 10 years, that’s $100,000 that we’re spending on taxpayers money to tell us something that we already know,” he said. “That’s a $1-million wastewater facility on a cost share.”

Rose brought the issue to the attention of the Conception Bay North Joint Council, which has since sent a letter to the prime minister’s office, as well as several federal cabinet ministers, MPs and provincial MHAs.

“It’s putting a big burden on small communities to keep coming up with this money all the time when we know what the answer is,” said Rose.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) oversees the federal Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations. The department declined a request for an interview, but a spokesperson did respond to several questions by email for The Compass.

Asked about the need for annual testing, the department said wastewater system owners across Canada must routinely monitor effluent discharged, “regardless of the current level of wastewater treatment.” This helps to ensure compliance with regulations and demonstrates any process a town makes if changes are made.

The spokesperson did however confirm effluent quality “is not expected to vary much from year to year.”

In its letter to the prime minister’s office, the joint council recommends modifying the regulations to require monitoring every three-to-five years for towns with wastewater flows above the acceptable level until a treatment facility is operational.

According to ECCC, there are 2,650 wastewater system owners in Canada. Deadlines for compliance vary depending on whether a wastewater system is considered high risk, medium risk or low risk. Those classified as high-risk systems must be upgraded by 2020.

Since 2002, the federal government has spent or committed $2.7 billion for wastewater infrastructure projects in Canada. Municipalities since 2005 have directed $940 million in federal Gas Tax Funds towards similar projects.

editor@cbncompass.ca

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