$60M cost overrun for St. John's water treatment system

City officials now say the cost of building a new water treatment system for the St. John's area will be about $150 million, a cost overrun of nearly $60 million.

City officials now say the cost of building a new water treatment system for the St. John's area will be about $150 million, a cost overrun of nearly $60 million.

Rising costs and unexpected work have pushed the price tag far over the initial estimate, officials said.

Federal and provincial governments had each agreed to pay a third of the original estimate of about $90 million for the treatment facility.

St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe said it's possible municipal taxpayers will end up footing the bill for the cost overrun, but he's optimistic the city will get some financial help.

"The federal government is still looking at ways to help us out, but not by directly dealing with the cost overrun but [by] enabling us to free up some of our own dollars," said O'Keefe. "So we'll get projects done and in the meantime we can deal with the cost overrun on the harbour."

O'Keefe said the province has pledged to pay part of the overrun — but only if the federal government does as well.

The centuries-long practice of dumping raw sewage into St. John's harbour continues today. An underwater pipe outlet creates a constant patch of turbulence in the harbour, known locally as "the bubble."

That infamous example of environmental indifference is expected to disappear by the end of this year.

City officials expect to begin redirecting some raw sewage from the harbour to the treatment plant in early June.

City engineer Art Cheeseman said all of the sewage will be treated by fall.