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JOINT NEWS RELEASE: Secondary Wastewater Treatment

Posted on Thursday July 11, 2019
Today, the Mayors of Mount Pearl, Paradise and St. John’s addressed federal requirements to complete secondary wastewater treatment from the Riverhead Wastewater Treatment Facility by the end of 2020.
 
Completion of a secondary wastewater facility is currently estimated to cost $255 million.
 
The Mayors discussed the regional impacts of the federal government’s wastewater regulations, introduced in 2014 under the Federal Fisheries Act. The regulations are designed to reduce harmful solids and chemicals in effluent from wastewater treatment facilities.
 
Despite repeated requests to the federal government, the City of St. John’s has been unable to receive an extension on the 2020 deadline; so, in less than two years, the current, transitional authority to offer primary wastewater treatment only will expire and the federal government legislates that secondary treatment must be in place by then or face significant fines and penalties.
 
Mayors Aker, Bobbett and Breen feel compelled to inform the public about what is happening and to affirm that the Councils of Mount Pearl, Paradise and St. John’s want due consideration and support from both levels of government on this significant and costly project which will have a direct impact on the water tax charged to residents.
 
Of particular concern to the Mayors is the fact that federal and provincial contributions to the project are based on very preliminary estimates; in fact, more recent estimates increase the cost from the original $223 million to $255 million. These additional costs, on top of the expected municipal contribution, increases municipal debt significantly.
 
“Currently, the federal government has offered $111 million for the project, the province will pay $59 million and the municipalities must cover the remaining $85 million. We are disappointed that a deal to reduce costs has been extended to the province but not to the municipalities - at the very least, the provincial and municipal shares should be the same. This we feel is unfair to the municipalities.” – Mayor Danny Breen, City of St. John’s
 
“As always, our primary concern is public service and the stewardship of our taxpayers’ dollars. With a project of this size and financial impact, additional due diligence is required before any development occurs. As always, we are committed to working with all levels of government and we believe that a ten-year project delay is in the best interests of our residents and businesses.” - Mayor Dave Aker, City of Mount Pearl
 
“We all fully support progressive environmental standards, but we want it done reasonably, fairly and equitably. The current approach places an unfair financial burden on municipalities, and ultimately on our residents. As Mayors, we cannot expect our residents to accept that burden and we need them to add their voice to this issue. We are asking all residents to contact their Federal and Provincial representatives and voice their concerns about the potential impacts.”
 
Media Contacts: 
Kelly Maguire, Media Relations City of St. John’s. 709-576-8491, email
 
Lesley Williams, Marketing and Communications Officer, City of Mount Pearl, 709-748-1009, email
 
Diane Keough, Communications Manager. Town of Paradise, 709-782-2603, email
 
 
BACKGROUND: Cost Implications
The federal government originally indicated they would pay 50% of the cost of secondary wastewater treatment from Riverhead, with the province covering 25% and the municipalities the other 25%.
 
Since that time, based on new numbers in fact supplied by the federal government, the cost of the project has been estimated at $255 million. Meanwhile, the provincial and federal governments agreed in a separate deal to cover two thirds of the project (44% for the federal government and 23% for the province), leaving the municipalities to shoulder the other 33% of the deal.
 
So, instead of contributing $122.5 million for a project they require municipalities to complete, the federal government has offered $111 million, the province $59 million and the municipalities must cover the remaining $85 million.
 
This is certainly more than originally expected and is unfair to the municipalities. At the very least, the provincial and municipal shares should be the same. Given that estimates for the cost of this project are still preliminary, it is also fair to assume the actual cost may in fact exceed $255, and any additional costs would fall to the municipalities.
 

 

 

 

$ Share

 

 

Municipality

 

 

Capital Cost

Annual Debt Service

Annual Operating Cost

 

 

Total Annual Cost

 

83.5%

 

City of St. John's

 

70,868,519

 

5,315,139

 

5,010,000

 

10,325,139

12.0%

City of Mount Pearl

10,151,964

761,397

720,000

1,481,397

4.0%

Town of Paradise

3,862,160

289,662

240,000

529,662

 

 

 

  $84,882,643     

 

$6,366,198    

 

$6,000,000                 

 

$12,336,198

Taking into consideration the debt service costs and estimated operating costs of secondary treatment, we anticipate an increase of over 25% in our water/ wastewater expenses budget which will result in a water tax increase for residents.

 

BACKGROUND: Understanding the Issue
In 2014, the federal government introduced new wastewater regulations under the Federal Fisheries Act. The regulations are designed to reduce harmful solids and chemicals in effluent from wastewater treatment facilities. At that time, the Riverhead Wastewater Treatment Facility was deemed to be high risk.
 
This risk rating has to do with a measure of Total Suspended Solids (TSS) and Chemical Biological Oxygen Demand (CBOD) in effluent at the final discharge point. In basic terms, the Department of Environment and Climate Change placed Riverhead in a high-risk category based on the review of testing results from Riverhead prior to June 30, 2014. Testing, at that time, indicated that the final discharge point was allocated 70 or more points: the higher the score the sooner the municipality must develop secondary treatment for its wastewater.
 
So, in 2014, the City was issued a transitional authorization giving us permission to continue with only our primary treatment – the City’s primary treatment from Riverhead – until December 31, 2020.
 
In less than two years, that transitional authority will expire and the federal government legislates that we must be offering secondary treatment by then or face significant fines and penalties.
 
 

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