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LETTER: N.L. municipalities pushing wastewater treatment as a federal election issue

<p>The Riverhead wastewater treatment plant off Southside Road in St. John’s.</p>
The Riverhead wastewater treatment plant off Southside Road in St. John’s.</p> - Joe Gibbons

The management and treatment of wastewater is an issue affecting municipalities across the country, including some of Canada’s largest cities and its smallest towns.

On Friday, Sept. 6, Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) held an emergency meeting on the issue of wastewater in the province.

Over 150 people registered for the event. All seven of the province’s MPs attended. Two provincial ministers came, representing the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment before and after the mid-morning cabinet shuffle.

Challenges with municipal wastewater management matter to our leaders.

MNL called the meeting because municipalities want to do the right thing but compliance with the federal Wastewater System Effluent Regulations (WSER), introduced in 2012, is practically impossible.

It never really was, at least not for Newfoundland and Labrador.

This impossibility is not the result of neglect.

The province has had very little wastewater-treatment infrastructure, although there are a few examples of innovative pilots.

Municipalities know that they do not have enough capital infrastructure funding to put in the systems that are required, and still do the other infrastructure work that is required in their towns. They do not have long-term funding for the operations and maintenance of these wastewater facilities. Local leaders in smaller jurisdictions do not want to increase taxation rates for an aging population on a fixed income in order to deal with the WSER.

Solutions are required. Getting to these solutions requires time to do additional planning and to secure the funding required through partnerships.

Municipalities agree that wastewater cannot be addressed at the local level alone.

Our members are clear. We need time and money. We want to do this. This is an election issue.

Deatra Walsh, PhD,
Director, Advocacy and Communications,
Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador


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