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Breweries in Halifax are making changes in anticipation of a possible hike in their water bills. (CBC)

Garrison Brewing says an expansion this summer will include on-site waste water treatment as Halifax breweries struggle to cope with rising water rates.

The Halifax microbrewery is facing a 50 per cent increase in its water bill.

"There's no easy way to skirt around this," said Brian Titus, the president of Garrison Brewing. "If you are going to become compliant you pretty well have to have a scaled down water treatment plant."

The company is spending $2.5 million on an expansion that will allow it to triple production from 7,000 hectolitres to 20,000 hectolitres.

"Ultimately, we will collect all discharge to a single point to deal with it. We'll analyze it and do advanced screening. Eventually we will be able to put systems to specifically treat the waste water," Titus said.

"It won't be cheap and it won't be easy but it will bring us into compliance."

Potential rate hike

Right now, Garrison's water bill is around $20,000 a year. That could hit $30,000 or more, annually, if provincial regulators approve the water rate increases sought by Halifax Water.

This week, the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board is hearing an application from Halifax Water to increase its water rates over two years by 30 per cent for residential customers, to 50 per cent and higher for businesses.

Beyond higher rates for water consumption, breweries are concerned about the introduction of higher charges for the treatment of waste water, especially organic effluent that exceed allowable limits.

Surcharges add up

Nova Scotia's largest brewer — the Oland Brewery — said it's facing a $1 million increase in its water bill if all the rate increases are approved.

The Oland Brewery already pays a surcharge for its effluent. Those surcharges are set to increase by 396 per cent for oxygen depleting pollutants known as BOD and 320 per cent for total suspended solids.

Oland said costs at its Halifax brewery are the second highest in its Canadian chain, only behind St. John's. The company is asking regulators to freeze those surcharges while it comes up with ways to treat its waste water.

"It's a complicated process. We're working with consultants to find ways to treat the waste water," said Kirby Dumaresque, the general manager of Oland Brewery. He testified at a Utility and Review Board hearing this week.

But Halifax Water is losing patience with the big brewery, noting it has exceeded pollution limits for years and missed a deadline to correct the problem.

Looking forward

At Garrison Brewing, Titus said his company is not paying a surcharge yet, but he's certain Halifax Water will charge him sooner or later. That’s why he's considering his own waste water treatment.

Another Halifax microbrewery — the Propeller Brewery — is also expanding. John Allen, the president, said his company is paying a water effluent surcharge. Allen said Halifax Water should phase in increases for waste water treatment.

Halifax Water is asking for the price hike because its system is in desperate need of upgrades.