Friday, July 20, 2012 - 3:30 PM

City Disappointed in Lack of Funding in Federal Wastewater Announcement

City of St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe is speaking out regarding the new Wastewater System Effluent Regulations announced by the federal government this week.

"While I am delighted to hear Minister Peter Kent and Minister Denis Lebel have announced new wastewater regulations, which we recognize are an absolutely necessary environmental initiative, I am extremely disappointed that this announcement did not include any indication that they would be initiating discussions on how this new initiative is to be funded," says Mayor O'Keefe.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is estimating that for Canadian municipalities to complete the upgrades required to meet the new regulations it will cost them between $20 and $40 billion, although the federal government has been quoting a substantially lower number at $5 billion.

"In his speech making this announcement Minister Kent indicated that municipalities should use the funding they already receive from the Gas Tax Fund to help pay for these costs," says Mayor O'Keefe. "This is completely unacceptable; we simply cannot put all our other infrastructure work on hold to meet these new regulations.

"With our dependence on property taxes for the funding we need to provide water, wastewater, waste management, roads, recreation and many, many other services to our residents this is a very short-sighted announcement that highlights the fact that the other levels of government do not understand the ever increasing costs municipalities are facing to provide the basic services residents rely upon," he adds.

The Riverhead Wastewater Treatment Plant was built so that it could be upgraded for enhanced primary processing. However to complete these upgrades to secondary processing it will cost the City and region an estimated $135 million based on 2012 construction costs.

"We are fortunate in that we do not have to build a completely new plant to meet these new regulations like some communities in this province and across the country will likely have to do," says Mayor O'Keefe. "But to expect municipalities to come up with funding to the tune of $125 million out of our existing infrastructure funding is not possible or acceptable. We need to have infrastructure partnerships with the provincial and federal governments to meet these new wastewater infrastructure demands, while not being forced to ignore our responsibilities to our residents elsewhere."

For further information:
Jennifer Mills
Communications Officer
City of St. John's
Phone: (709) 570-2037
Cell: (709) 690-7586
E-mail: jmills@stjohns.ca

Dennis O'Keefe
Mayor
City of St. John's
Phone: (709) 576-8477
E-mail: dokeefe@stjohns.ca