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The city says it needs to upgrade its sewage treatment plant by 2016 in order to meet stricter federal water quality standards. (CBC)

A controversial sewage plant upgrade in Regina will not require an environmental impact assessment, the Saskatchewan government says.

The Environment Ministry decided earlier this month that the planned $224-million plant upgrade on the western edge of the city is not a "development" as defined by the Environmental Assessment Act.

Treated sewage to go into Wascana Creek

Environmental impact assessments, where there can be public hearings held and detailed reports prepared, are common for big industrial developments, such as new potash mines.

'No widespread public concern regarding the environmental impacts of this project is anticipated.' - Environment Ministry determination on sewage plant upgrade

However, in a Jan. 8, 2014 decision, the ministry's environmental assessment branch says the revamped sewage plant, which will continue to discharge effluent into Wascana Creek, doesn't require a full-scale assessment for a number of reasons.

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Effluent from the sewage treatment plant goes into Wascana Creek west of Regina. (CBC)

Among them, it says, is that there is "no widespread public concern because of potential environmental changes."

'No species at risk' found

The report said wildlife surveys were conducted along Wascana Creek last year and "no species at risk were encountered."
The ministry's report also says there will be no new technology being deployed at the Regina wastewater plant, just "tried and true" technology.

The city says it has to do the upgrade to keep up with the growing Regina population and meet new federal water standards coming into effect in 2016.

Although a full-scale environmental assessment won't be done, the province says the new plant must still comply with all other federal, provincial and municipal regulatory requirements including those from the Environment Ministry. 

Plant project at centre of referendum

The proposed sewage plant upgrade was at the centre of stormy public debate last year when the city opted to have the private sector build and operate the facility — a so-called public-private partnership, or P3.

Yes and No signs compete on Regina lawns

Regina held a referendum last year on how its new sewage plant would be built and operated. (CBC)

 

A referendum was held asking voters if they wanted to go back to the traditional way of doing things, where city employees would operate the plant.

However, voters rejected the traditional approach that had been promoted by a group called Regina Water Watch.

The city expects to put out tenders for the project this spring.