Nfld. & Labrador

Possible jail time for wastewater violations? Dover town manager calls it intimidation

The town manager in Dover said she's been threatened with jail time and heavy fines over the town's wastewater treatment by federal enforcement officers.

Federal enforcement officers visited town halls in central Newfoundland last summer

Dover's Town Manager Yvonne Collins said she was threatened with possible jail time and fines because the town is not following federal wastewater regulations. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The town manager in Dover says she's been threatened by federal enforcement officers with jail time and heavy fines over wastewater treatment in the Newfoundland community. 

"My assistant said to me she thought they were the FBI or something the way they came in," said Yvonne Collins, describing the visit by officers last summer to the Bonavista Bay town.

In 2012 the federal government introduced new legislation to control the amount of wastewater entering lakes, rivers and oceans. 

"They came in and they're asking us 'It needs to be done now. And if it's not done there will be a heavy heavy fine," said Collins.

"And apparently I can go to jail. Well, why would I be going to jail when I can't do anything without council approval?"

Dover Mayor Tony Keats said there are only three communities that are not violating wastewater regulations in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

She said the officers left after she explained what the town was doing to move towards meeting the regulations. She said the visit was intimidation. 

"I don't know if they're going to take me in cuffs or what but they said they will be back," said Collins.

She said that Dover's council is currently looking at options for monitoring of the town's wasterwater system. 

"We have all our documents and stuff — what we've been doing."

Federal Regulations

Collins could be personally responsible for the town's failure to follow the regulations because of documents she's responsible for as town manger, said Mayor Tony Keats. 

"If your town is not complying and not keeping up with things that need to be done within that framework then the town manager is responsible and could have legal action," said Keats. 

"So you've got a lot of town managers out there right now that's a little bit scared."

Mayor of Dover Tony Keats said his town is working towards meeting federal wastewater regulations. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Keats said there's only three municipalities in the province that are following the wastewater treatment regulations.

Councils had to submit applications for transitional authorization. Approval from the federal government would allow for some leniency with wastewater systems until 2020, 2030 or 2040. 

Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador said the best way to avoid charges is for communities to show their due diligence as they try to improve wastewater management systems.  

"We've got no problem doing it but when there's no money involved and the time frame of 'You gotta have it done today' — it's a big concern for us," said Keats.