Skip to content

NEWS: Canadian municipalities concerned about new wastewater regulations

The Vancouver Sun reports, “Despite spending as much as $3.1 billion in recent years to upgrade water and sewage treatment systems, the federal government has acknowledged the investments may not address a multi-billion-dollar price tag for proposed regulations to crack down on water pollution from this infrastructure. An Infrastructure Canada representative said municipalities using the money were required to build projects based on old standards and not on a new set of draft regulations introduced by Environment Canada in March 2010 that could force cities to spend up to $20 billion in upgrades over the next two decades. …Cities have maintained they must have more help – on top of existing multibillion-dollar investments, such as a gas tax revenue sharing program – to cope with the regulations as well as other crumbling infrastructure estimated to require more than $123 billion in new funding.”

Last week, the Vancouver Sun reported, “Briefing notes (prepared for environment minister Peter Kent) said that the department had received nearly 200 submissions from municipalities and other stakeholders on the (municipal sewage system) regulations which would target an estimated 150 billion litres of sewage released every year into Canada’s waterways. …Kent’s spokeswoman Melissa Lantsman…said the government is aiming to introduce final regulations to crack down on municipal systems by late 2011, more than a year after draft regulations were introduced in March 2010, and behind the schedule set out in briefing notes from Environment Canada bureaucrats delivered to Kent when he took over the environment portfolio in January.”

“Kent was…told that the standards would allow Canada to catch up to other jurisdictions such as the European Union and the United States, which has required secondary treatment of waste water since the 1970s. In the case of the latter, the briefing notes said the new regulations would ‘enhance coordination between Canada and the U.S. with respect to transboundary water quality.’ Environment Canada estimated in previously released briefing notes from 2006 that cities would need up to $20 billion over two decades to bring municipal waste water systems up to standard to address threats to environmental and human health, but it now estimates the price tag of its regulations at about $10 to $13 billion over 30 years.”

“The federal government has indicated it would give cities with systems considered to be at high risk about 10 years to meet the regulations, while others at lower levels of risk would have 20 or 30 years to bring their system up to the new standard. But the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has also previously warned the government that new standards could translate into property tax hikes, if there is no new funding from the federal and provincial governments.”

The Council of Canadians has been calling for full public consultation and a process to involve Indigenous communities and local governments in developing a strategy to address wastewater treatment needs throughout the country. More commentary from us on this issue at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=4658.