New federal wastewater regulations would represent the “single most significant property tax increase ever in the history of Canada,” HRM Mayor Peter Kelly said Thursday.
Kelly urged the provincial and federal governments to establish cost-sharing strategies with municipalities to deal with the cost of upgrading wastewater infrastructure. He said the increased standards could cost HRM between $1.7 and $2.5 billion over 30 years.
“This becomes an annual cost,” Kelly said.
“This is a life-altering change for the municipalities in terms of financial pressures … We’re asking the feds (and) the province, to be part of this solution.”
The regulations, developed over a six-year process by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, will create a national standard for approximately 3,500 wastewater facilities.
According to the CCME, most of these facilities are in need of repair or upgrading. There are three different time frames for the upgrades that correspond to three different risk levels for wastewater systems.
Kelly said most of HRM’s infrastructure is classified as “moderate risk,” meaning the municipality would have 20 years to upgrade its systems.
But the three newest plants, including the Halifax sewage treatment plant that malfunctioned in 2009 and has not been fully operational since, are not up to the new codes.
“All our plants meet the secondary (qualifications), other than the three new ones,” said Kelly, adding upgrading the new plants would cost around $120-million each. “Then getting into the ground and sorting the storm water from the waste water is the challenge for us.”
Kelly’s comments came at the Atlantic Mayors’ Congress summit in Halifax.