PEI

No funding for Stratford sewage treatment plant, premier says

Stratford Mayor David Dunphy says his council is once again examining the issue of how to treat the town’s sewage, after the premier sent the town a letter advising it the province is not in a position to approve funding for the option council has selected.

Province wants to see 'regional approach' to sewage treatment, premier tells mayor

The sewage lagoon on the waterfront in Stratford, P.E.I., needs to be replaced soon as the municipality continues to grow quickly. (Julia Cook/CBC)

Stratford council is once again examining the issue of how to treat the town's sewage, despite a five-to-one vote last month to build a new sewage treatment plant in the community, Mayor David Dunphy says.

That council decision seems to have been effectively overruled by the province. CBC News has learned Premier Wade MacLauchlan sent the mayor a letter after the council decision, advising the province would not provide funding.

After wrestling with the issue for years, councillors were left to choose between two options: build a new sewage treatment plant in Stratford or pipe the town's waste across the Hillsborough River be processed in Charlottetown, while paying for necessary upgrades to the Charlottetown sewage treatment plant.

'Not in a position to approve a grant'

"The decision you made was based on qualifying for a provincial grant to construct an additional treatment plant," MacLauchlan states in his letter to the Stratford mayor.

"We are not in a position to approve a grant to the project that Stratford has currently outlined," he wrote.

In a previous letter delivered two days before council was to vote on which option to pursue, the premier explained why

We certainly feel that we made the decision in the best interests of the town for the long term.— Stratford Mayor David Dunphy

the province preferred the option of having one central waste water treatment plant on the Hillsborough River.

"We believe there are significant environmental, economic and operational benefits to consolidating waste water treatment at the Charlottetown facility," he wrote.

"If the decision is made to pursue a new waste treatment facility in Stratford, we will need to do a complete review of such a proposal before we could consider becoming a financial partner."

'Best interests of the town'

Without provincial funding, the town won't be able to obtain federal funding under Ottawa's Clean Water and Wastewater Fund, said Dunphy.

(Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

Stratford expected the federal government would pay for half the cost of a new facility — estimated at $15.2 million —with the town and province each contributing 25 per cent. 

Council went to great lengths to investigate both options, Dunphy said.

"We certainly feel that we made the decision in the best interests of the town for the long term," he said. 

"However, we have to work with our provincial and federal counterparts. It's an infrastructure project that requires federal and provincial funding. And we also have to deal with the province from an environmental standpoint in terms of the outflows into the river."

Charlottetown option more expensive

One of the issues the Stratford weighed was the cost to ratepayers. Construction costs for the Charlottetown option were estimated to be about a million dollars more than in Stratford.

More importantly though, the town concluded ongoing operational costs to pay Charlottetown to treat Stratford's sewage

We'll just continue to discuss and work with the province to see if we can [come up with] a solution we can all agree on.- Stratford Mayor David Dunphy

would push sewer rates from the current $329 to $544 per year for a single-family home. Building a new treatment plant on the Stratford side of the river was also expected to push rates up, but only to $472 per year.

Dunphy is still hoping to convince the province to provide funding for a Stratford plant, he said. The town is also concerned about not having control over its own sewage treatment facility.

If the province won't come on board, then he's hoping something can be done to reduce the costs associated with the Charlottetown option.

"We'll just continue to discuss and work with the province to see if we can [come up with] a solution we can all agree on."

A spokesperson for the premier's office would only say that work and discussions around the project are continuing.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kerry Campbell

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Kerry Campbell is the provincial affairs reporter for CBC P.E.I., covering politics and the provincial legislature. kerry.campbell@cbc.ca

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