N.L. towns struggling to meet new wastewater regulations

Clarenville councillor John Pickett, left, said his community spends upwards of $50,000 per year to monitor its wastewater output. He would like to see the three levels of government reach a funding agreement that would allow municipalities to move forward with sewage treatment upgrades. Picket is pictured speaking with MNL Radio host Fred Campbell. – Adam Randell

Municipal officials say tri-lateral funding agreement needed

GANDER, N.L. –Newfoundland and Labrador is far from holding its own in implementing federal government wastewater regulations.

The nationally set regulations came into effect in 2015. It states if a sewage outfall has more than 100 cubic metres of waste per day, it has to be treated.

Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) president Craig Pollett provided more than 200 attendees of the organization’s symposium in Gander, May 3, with an update. With 196 wastewater systems documented, 163 are doing no treatment and only 22 are compliant with regulations.

It is unknown how many are exceeding the wastewater regulations. Total effluent measured more than 100 million cubic metres in 2017.

Three years beyond the regulation implementation, Pollett said, federal officers are now tasked with enforcement, visiting town halls and dropping off letters, which mention fines, charges and potential jail time for the non-compliant.

And while municipalities want to act, Pollett said the financial capacity just isn’t there, especially in smaller communities.

“Our estimates suggest it’s 600-700 million dollars in capital to be able to do this (for N.L.),” he said. “And there simply isn’t enough money to do all that work.”

But it doesn’t mean municipalities aren’t trying.

“Municipalities have been working on it, it’s fair to say the number of towns monitoring is up,” he said.

“They have gotten the information, understand what it’s about, what’s required of them, and they are starting to react, it’s just that we are three years behind.”

Clarenville is one of those communities.

Coun. John Pickett said his community has been monitoring its sewage output for the past three years, at a cost of $50,000 per year.

“We’re still waiting to see what it is we will have to do, because we are well beyond the threshold, as per the regulations,” said Pickett. “We are hoping federal government will change the timeline, because the current one we are on is to have something in place by 2020.”

It’s not something that the town can do alone.

“We have issues in terms of our ability to pay the cost, and Clarenville certainly isn’t the only municipality in that boat,” Picket said.

“There haven’t been any firm conversations… but some time down the road all parties, municipal, provincial and federal, have got come to some understanding and agreement as to how this is going to be paid for.”

There has been some help for municipalities since the regulations came into effect.

Alfred Park, the deputy-mayor of McIvers, on the west coast, said there were 20 homes in his community that couldn’t be connected to its collection system. The town was successful in obtaining funding for an ultra-violet light water disinfection unit for 20 homes. It collects the remaining waste in a tank, which is then pumped out and trucked away.

He said the 90-10 cost-shared project cost approximately $400,000.

“It meets the primary standard required, and it puts a clean product back into the bay of islands,” he said.