Municipal leaders from across Canada will be in St. John’s this week for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) national board of directors meeting.
A top priority of the FCM, according to its president Claude Dauphin, will be addressing new wastewater effluent regulations brought in by the federal government earlier this year.
These regulations require that a secondary level of treatment be implemented for all wastewater systems in Canada. This requires an upgrading of infrastructure in many municipalities and nowhere is this more true than in this province where there are between 40 and 70 municipalities that will require some type of upgrading.
Across the country as a whole, about 25 per cent of municipalities require a significant upgrade to meet the federal regulations.
“It’s a priority for the FCM to make sure we get funds for the wastewater regulations programs,” Dauphin told The Telegram.
“We have to make sure that this wastewater regulation is not only a priority, but the money will be accessible as soon as possible to make sure we can comply with those regulations.”
The federal government has established a 20-30 year timeline to bring all municipalities up to code. Those systems posing the highest risk to the environment will be upgraded in the first 10 years followed by the medium-risk systems within 20 years and lowest-risk systems to be done with the 30-year window.
In the last federal budget, there was a 10-year, $14-billion infrastructure program announced. The FCM is having its meeting just ahead of the federal and provincial governments getting together to decide on matching funding agreements as they design how to use the $14 billion fund.
The FCM will ensure that $14 billion is prioritized and used efficiently for the regulation timeline to be met across the municipalities, Daupin said.
Dauphin stressed that it’s fine and good to make new regulations regarding wastewater that have to be met, but it’s imperative to ensure the funds are there to make it happen. Such upgrades are costly, especially for municipalities with few people and little money, he said.
“Newfoundland is the place where there is the most need in terms of that new regulation with the wastewater system,” he added.
Next in line is Quebec. When the federal government first proposed the regulations several years ago, 185 of 186 municipalities in this province would have required upgrading.
The FCM brought the federal government up to speed on how impossible this was and the regulations were then modified to exclude extremely small communities that posed little risk to the environment compared to the financial investment it would take to bring them up to regulation status.