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UPDATE: Powell River chapter fights privatized sewage treatment

Powell River

Last April, the City of Powell River announced they had reached an agreement with Catalyst Paper, a private company, for the co-treatment of municipal sewage/liquid waste in the Catalyst Powell River mill. The twenty-year agreement, with an option for renewal, would pay Catalyst $750,000 annually to treat the region’s wastewater.

Catalyst had taken Powell River and other communities to court claiming that their tax rates were too high. Catalyst lost its court case, but also implied that it would close its mill in Powell River. A reduction in their taxes and acceptance of this sewage treatment deal was the city’s response.

Within days the Powell River Water Watch Coalition was formed with members including CUPE Local 798, the Powell River chapter of the Council of Canadians, the Townsite, Cranberry and Wildwood ratepayers associations, and the Malaspina Sierra Club chapter.

Well-known writer and Council of Canadians Powell River chapter activist Murray Dobbin has written, “The deal is fraught with problems. If Catalyst goes bankrupt, the cotreatment deal could be jeopardized by court decisions regarding the disposal of its assets. Six months after the deal was signed, it’s still unclear what would happen if the mill closed permanently and was dismantled. Moreover, if the mill closes temporarily for more than a week, we would see raw city sewage being pumped into the ocean. There are other problems. City council openly acknowledges the $750,000 fee it would pay for sewage services bears no relationship to Catalyst’s cost of treating the waste — it is simply the amount by which Catalyst wants its taxes further reduced. In other words, the co-treatment deal looks like an indirect government subsidy to Catalyst. That violates the Community Charter and provincial law.”

Just three weeks ago this Water Watch Coalition launched a new on-line petition for residents of Powell River.

That petition says, “We object to the city giving up control over this vital public service; putting the city at particular risk if the mill closes; storing raw sewage in the mill’s abandoned primary clarifier so close to houses; and taking an environmental step backwards to a lower standard of treatment. Therefore, we the undersigned, citizens of Powell River, petition the Powell River City Council to reject the co-treatment proposal and pursue a publicly owned plant with effective odour control.”

If you live in Powell River, please sign the petition at http://prwaterwatch.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/new-petition-opposing-the-co-treatment-proposal/.