Nfld. & Labrador

Gander penalized 'for doing the right thing' on waste-water cleanup, mayor says

The mayor of Gander says taxpayers are getting a raw deal when it comes to paying for their new waste-water treatment system, and an MP is now fighting on their behalf.

Farwell says taxpayers punished for obeying the law

Gander Mayor Percy Farwell says his town is being punished for obeying the law. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

The mayor of Gander says his town's taxpayers are getting a raw deal when it comes to paying for their new waste-water treatment system, and that they are being penalized because the town has played by the rules. 

Gander is one of only three municipalities in Newfoundland that obeyed changes to the federal Fisheries Act, which required towns to meet tougher standards for treating effluent. 

Communities whose waste-water outfalls produce more than 100 cubic metres of effluent per day must treat the water before it goes into the ocean or rivers, according to the 2012 changes. 

If communities were not compliant, they were required to request an extension to upgrade their systems.

This is the Town of Gander's water reservoir. The water will soon pass through a new treatment plant before it goes into the Gander River. (Leigh Anne Power/CBC)

Mayor Percy Farwell says taxpayers in his town are covering 37 per cent of the total cost. However, municipalities who were late can have the federal government paying the greatest share of their systems.

"It's punitive," Farwell told CBC's Newfoundland Morning

"The taxpayers of Gander are being expected to contribute more toward their waste-water solution than in other communities and we just don't think that's fair."

Farwell worries federal infrastructure money will now be diverted to waste-water treatment after his town has already paid its share.

Scott Simms, Liberal member of Parliament for Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame, says Farwell has a point. (CBC)

"We've invested our money in waste-water treatment while others were investing their money in recreational facilities and other priorities," he said. "Now there's likely to be very little if any money available for these other priorities because everybody waited."

If that's the way it turns out, then I think there's a message in it for us that when guidelines come out, perhaps it's more advantageous to ignore them and move on and do what you like- Percy Farwell

He added that higher levels of government are "penalizing us for doing the right thing."

Now Gander wants a better deal from Ottawa. 

"We're not too keen on being penalized for doing what's right, and if that's the way it turns out, then I think there's a message in it for us that when guidelines come out, perhaps it's more advantageous to ignore them and move on and do what you like."

Farwell says he's asking his member of Parliament to intervene. 

Gander's current waste-water treatment facility is working at capacity. The new system will relieve the pressure and meet federal regulations at the same time. (David Newell/CBC)

"They want to go from 37 per cent contribution down to 33 or less," said Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame MP Scott Simms.

"I think they have a valid point. And my job, as member of Parliament, is to fight on their behalf."

He says he's not sure whether the federal government will reopen the agreement it signed with Gander, as the money has already been allotted. 

Farwell hopes the fact that Gander not only followed the rules but brought in its project well under budget will encourage the federal government to be more generous.

Municipalities that don't comply with federal regulations or request an extension by the end of this year can be fined, and their managers face criminal charges.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador 

About the Author

Leigh Anne Power is a Gander-based reporter working with CBC Newfoundland Morning.

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