Nova Scotia

Atlantic mayors to Ottawa: help our sewage systems

Halifax and other towns and cities in the region are looking for more money from the federal government to help pay for required upgrades to their sewage treatment systems.
Halifax pumped raw sewage into the harbour for decades before opening a $55 million treatment plant in 2008, followed by the opening of harbour beaches to much fanfare. (CBC)

Halifax and other towns and cities in the region are looking for more money from the federal government to help pay for required upgrades to their sewage treatment systems.

The latest call for financial help comes from the Atlantic Mayors Conference in Halifax this week.

Mayor Mike Savage says new federal guidelines mean wastewater systems across the country will need significant upgrades by 2020.

"In Halifax alone it’s a $600 million piece of the equation. I think in Cape Breton I heard it was $450 million so it’s a lot of money at stake here," he said.

In the March federal budget the government said the Community Improvement Fund will set aside $21.8 billion over 10 years from gas tax fund payments, beginning in 2014-15. Ottawa recently suggested that part of the tax can be used for sewage treatment projects.

Windsor Mayor Paul Beazley said that doesn’t go far enough.

"If you're putting in place a new $10 million plant and you're a small town, that does restrict how much infrastructure you can do in the future because it puts pressure on your debt service ratio," he said.

The Atlantic mayors said they want federal and provincial officials to meet with municipal leaders to create a separate pot of money dedicated to sewage treatment projects.

They also suggested changing the way the costs of wastewater projects are shared so municipalities are only responsible for 20 percent instead of one third.

now