Monday, June 9, 2014

Torbay Wastewater Treatment Study Underway

Untreated wastewater (sewage) has been a big issue for many Torbay residents over the years including myself and there seems to be a general consensus that something has to be done about it. On the heels of World Oceans Day which occurred on June 8 I would like to take a minute to update people on where we are exactly with wastewater treatment in Torbay and express the fact that we are moving forward.

In July 2012 the Government of Canada introduced new wastewater treatment regulations designed to reduce the amount of untreated wastewater that is pumped into Canadian waterways. You can view the frequently asked questions related to the new regulations here

Each year there is about 150 Billion litres of untreated or undertreated wastewater deposited by municipalities in various bodies of water in Canada. These new regulations have a significant impact on municipalities like Torbay because not only are we required to comply with the regulations but we have to do so within a specific time frame, 10, 20 or 30 years. There are various steps and guidelines that must be followed within the federal regulations and that is where the town is right now.

Before we can take any steps towards actually building a facility to treat our wastewater we need to complete a study to determine the quantity and quality of the effluent flowing from our outfall at Torbay Beach. Based on the results of this study we will be able to find out where exactly we sit as it relates to the new regulations.

For municipalities like the Town of Torbay these new regulations are both a blessing and possibly a curse. A blessing because there are guidelines for us to follow to rectify our practice of pumping raw sewage into our beach and polluting our historic bay. The possible curse is the potential cost associated with building and maintaining the required facility to allow the Town of Torbay to comply with the federal regulations. In 2012 Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) passed multiple resolutions to lobby both the Federal and Provincial Government to provide additional funding to help municipalities become complaint with the new wastewater regulations. The estimated cost to municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador for the necessary infrastructure upgrades stated by MNL is approximately $500 million. This enormous price tag could potentially cause municipalities to not comply with the regulations or place unreasonable fiscal pressures on towns such as Torbay and our tax payers.

When we look at the potential cost for municipalities in NL and then project that across the entire country we can easily see that these new regulations are going to cost many billions of dollars. So where is all the money going to come from to build infrastructure and help municipalities become complaint with federal mandated regulations? I am not aware of a single dedicated source of funding where municipalities to apply to for financial help. There are however several available federal and provincial programs and funds to which municipalities can apply for to get funds specifically for wastewater treatment. Wastewater treatment infrastructure is an eligible category under the Provincial-Territorial Base Fund, the Green Infrastructure Fund, the Gas Tax Fund, the Building Canada Fund and under the Gas Tax Fund.

So with all this in mind where does this leave the town of Torbay? Well in April 2014 the Department of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs approved the towns Prime Consultant, Progressive Engineering & Consulting to undertake our Wastewater Treatment Study and council passed a motion to get he project underway. This is a significant first step and the study is slated to be completed by the end of September 2014.

Once the study is completed, and as I mentioned earlier about knowing where we fall within the federal regulations we can choose the technology best suited to our town and put a price tag on it. After we do that we can actively pursue all available funding options from the federal and provincial governments. A phrase that I use often and have heard even more when it comes to taking advantage of government funding is "shovel ready". I think that it will be important for the town to get our project "shovel ready" as soon as we can once our study is done. As is so often the case especially with federal funding there is a pool of money available for a specific budget cycle and many times it just sits there because nobody is ready to receive it.

As a town all we can do is make sure that we have our part done and have all the i's dotted and t's crossed. We need to have our plans ready to go so if there is a funding option available that we are in a position to take advantage of it where others may be scrambling. I think we are on the right path and certainly on the road to rectifying our wastewater woes as they exist right now.

In the mean time while we are completing our study and preparing to move forward with wastewater treatment the town of Torbay actively monitors the beach and conducts sampling in the water and on the rocks to ensure it is as safe as can be considering we have a raw sewage outfall off our shore. There were significant problems a couple of years ago when the outfall pipe was damaged but that has since been fixed and the natural currents in our bay help keep effluent off the shore area.

As always I like to remind people that all opinions stated in this space are mine and not necessarily those of the town of Torbay or Council.

4 comments:

  1. Craig, are you aware that the Muffin Monster-Beach was broken and out of commission for approx. 6 weeks and there were items washed up on the beach that had come from the outfall pipe. In regard to funding, maybe council should think twice about spending $20,000 on Christmas Infrastructure Decorating; $35,000 on Beautification Plan (unable to get copy of plan) and $10,000 on Property Beautification Awards.

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  2. Ethel you are correct that the broken pipe was a source of a lot of problems with stuff washing up on the beach. This study when done will enable us to put actual numbers on the cost and process we must take to resolve the sewer treatment issue. This is something that I have been complaining about for years and am glad that we are actually taking steps now to try and fix the problem. I would like to think that we can take steps towards getting this done and still be able to fund other initiatives in the town.

    I know you are passionate about the town and the beach in particular and look forward to getting these things fixed.

    Thanks for your comment

    Craig

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  3. AnonymousJuly 27, 2014

    Sort of on the same topic, has there been any word on when Evenings Path area residents will be able to avail of the town water and sewer. When we moved to the area 12 years ago we were told by our realestate agent that we would be able to get hooked up that spring. Here we are about 12 years later and still waiting. It would be great to see a timeline on the project.

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    1. This issue with the waste water study and the one of water availability are a little different. The town is mandated by new federal laws that it must address the waste water problem. We are not allowed to continue pumping raw sewage into the bay, which I believe is a serious issue regardless of the federal regulations.

      Water availability is another problem that we currently have because there is simply no water available. Our current water supply, North Pond is pretty much at capacity and aside from lots that have been identified and counted in our capacity no new water allocations can be permitted at this time. The lack of additional water is a very serious problem for the town right now and we are in the midst of exploring the possibility of gaining access to a new supply. Currently the best option we have for additional capacity is from the city of St. John's and there is a regional water study currently under way that Torbay is part of to find out what capacity is there.

      I know this doesn't address your current problem but it is none the less the situation we find ourselves in.

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