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MLA Trevor Holder says improving water is a priority. ((CBC))

Saint John's ailing water system is now the top priority for all three levels of government in the city, according to the area's mayor, MP and MLA.

Mayor Ivan Court, MP Rodney Weston and MLA Trevor Holder held a media conference Monday to say they were committed to working together to ensure residents have safe, clean drinking water.

The water-treatment system in the city meets all regulations, but it is old and basically just removes debris and adds chlorine. The political leaders said the city has to act now to be ready for the future.

The system needs at least $172 million of upgrades, including a new treatment plant, Court said. Funding the project could include a public-private partnership.

"We are going to leave no stone unturned," he said.

"We'll go out there and see what is the most efficient and fastest way of getting this system up and running. If 3P's is the fastest way of getting that done, I think we've committed ourselves that we'll take a serious look at that."

Time to focus on one problem

Holder said all three politicians received the same requests from their constituents.

"We've heard very consistently from the people of Saint John that they want this dealt with. I don't think I'm alone in that — I think the mayor and Rodney both heard that consistently. It goes back to my point that if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. We need to focus in on this," he said.

Weston said the public-private partnership, or "P3," model might be the best option because traditional tri-level government funding is limited and the lineups are long.

"The triple-P program is a funding agent that is there today, that has funds available under it and certainly is probably one of the quicker methods of us trying to access funds for a project of this size," he said.

Weston said the final decision is up to city council, which was expected to discuss the project at a meeting Monday evening.