Who’s Going to Pay for This New Federally Mandated $200 Million Sewage Treatment Facility?

The Federal government is on its way to inspect your crap, and the clock is ticking.

The Federal government is on its way to inspect your crap, and the clock is ticking.

According to 2012’s wastewater systems effluent regulations, a secondary sewerage treatment facility needs to be constructed and operational in St. John’s by December 31st, 2020. A dated estimate of what this facility would cost came in at around $200 million dollars.

To put that into context, according to its 2016 cash report, the total gross adjusted budget for the city of St. John’s was $305.3 million, with 12 million of that being surplus. This begs the question: Who is going to pay for this?

The province is all crapped out in terms of money at least, the towns of Mount Pearl and Paradise aren’t exactly financial juggernauts, so even in a regional cost sharing scheme, they couldn’t realistically be counted on for anything other than a small fraction of the cost. So unless everyone in St. John’s can move in with Dave, huddle together for warmth, and eat Jam Jams for a year, we will need substantial Federal money to even get this project off the ground. But there hasn’t been a firm indication of how much Federal money will be made available for the mandated project, if any.

The issue was addressed in our new mayor’s campaign. Danny Breen vowed to negotiate federal funding for this mandated secondary wastewater treatment plant, to protect St. John’s taxpayers from this financial burden. He stated, “Another level of government mandating a project that St. John’s taxpayers have to pay for requires a mayor to negotiate a proper funding arrangement with that level of government. Wastewater improvements are necessary for our growing city. However, meeting the mandate imposed by the federal government means that they have to be our funding partner too.”

No one argues that sewage systems aren’t worth however much money is spent on them, we may forget about them when they are working well, we may defer maintenance when we really shouldn’t, but in the end we cough up the money because life without effective sewerage systems is simply horrid.

St. John’s currently maintains over 459 kilometres of sanitary sewer mains, that’s greater than the straight line distance between St. John’s and Corner Brook. In addition there is also 40 kilometres of combined sanitary and storm sewers and 7,800 manholes, these are vast and complicated systems.

All of these lines lead to the Riverhead Wastewater Treatment Facility. This facility treats the sewerage of St. John’s, Paradise, and Mount Pearl a service area of 130,000 people and a built out population of 160,000. We combine for an estimated wastewater production of 120 million litres per day. The facility has been designed to handle up to 360 million litres per day to meet demand during rain storm events, when storm water is also being received and treated.

The Riverhead Wastewater Treatment Facility is a preliminary and primary treatment plant, which removes 30-40 percent of organic material, 50-80 percent of suspended solids, and 99.5 percent of all fecal coliform bacteria. It has been fully operational since 2015, and we’ve already seen a remarkable change in the harbour. For the first time in what must be centuries, there have been multiple sightings of whales entering the Narrows, something to smile about for sure.

A secondary treatment facility would bring another massive change to our harbour and the waters in the immediate vicinity. No one questions that this is a good thing, everyone would like to see this accomplished but we need help, we need Federal funding to make it happen. It’s one thing to set goals for others and blame them if they’re not met, it’s something very different to be a leading partner and wear that shame or earn that success. We need a partner in Ottawa. Write to your MPs.

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