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NEWS: Municipalities worried about costs of new wastewater regulations

The Montreal Gazette reports that, “Municipal leaders from across the country said they believed (former environment minister Jim) Prentice was starting to understand their concerns about financing waste water system upgrades and improvements required by the regulations.” But they’re not so sure about the new environment minister, John Baird.

“Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly has said that without adequate financial support, the regulations would result in the ‘single largest municipal tax increase in Canadian history.’ Others have warned that it could force their municipalities to dramatically slash other investments in maintaining roads, bridges or services such as public transit.” It has been estimated that the changes would cost $20 billion over 30 years. Vancouver would need about $2 billion in investments to meet the proposed standards, for Laval, Quebec it would cost $250 million.

“(Baird has said) that the federal government had already provided some financial support through various infrastructure programs and was prepared to continue when the existing programs expire in 2014.”

“(Under the proposed regulations) municipal waste water operators at high risk would be required to meet the new standards within 10 years. Those considered a medium risk would have 20 years, while low-risk operators would have 30 years to meet the requirements.”

This past May, national water campaigner Meera Karunananthan (now on maternity leave) commented on the proposed regulations:

“The Federation of Canadian Municipalities estimates that Canadian municipalities currently face a water and wastewater infrastructure deficit of $31 billion. These regulations would raise that deficit considerably, but offers no strategy to increase funding to municipalities for the purpose of improving wastewater infrastructure. The only federal source of funding remains the Building Canada Fund, which is grossly insufficient to meet the basic needs for water and sanitation upgrades, let alone the new requirements of the proposed regulations.”

“The government’s regulatory impact analysis statement describes the need to harmonize Canadian wastewater standards with those of the Europe Union. European municipalities are facing financial constraints in meeting EU standards – something that was recently identified in the Global Water Intelligence, a yearly industry report, as an opportunity for investment in wastewater infrastructure. With Canada currently negotiating a trade deal with the European Union, which has the backing of the French water corporation Suez, the Council of Canadians fears that a lack of adequate funding and capacity building for public wastewater services, will leave the door wide open to European water corporations seeking investments in Canada.”

“Given the vital importance of water and wastewater services, the Council of Canadians is 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.”

For the full text of our submission, http://canadians.org/water/documents/wastewater-reg-0510.pdf. The campaign blog backgrounder on this issue is at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=3675.

The news articles are at http://www.canada.com/news/Cities+fear+drowning+waste+water+costs+after+Prentice+resignation/3826974/story.html#ixzz15VYSUiSa and http://www.canada.com/technology/Waste+water+regulations+morality+issue+Baird/3832549/story.html#ixzz15VWqCssG.