In July, the federal government announced new regulations to control wastewater entering Canada's lakes, rivers and oceans.
The announcement prompted the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) to call for federal funding to help pay for upgrades that will cost billions of dollars.
The government said about 75 per cent of municipalities in Canada are already in compliance with the new rules, but the remaining 25 per cent, about 850 individual communities or treatment areas, must upgrade to secondary wastewater treatment.
Municipalities that are considered high-risk have until 2020 to comply, while medium-risk municipalities have until 2030 and low-risk jurisdictions have until 2040.
By the end of 2014, all wastewater systems that need upgrading will have been identified and will know which deadline – 2020, 2030 or 2040 – applies to them.
According to the FCM, Metro Vancouver and Regina are among the municipalities requiring the most significant upgrades to their wastewater treatment systems.
In the Lower Mainland, local governments collect wastewater with their pipes and deliver it to Metro Vancouver Regional District (MVRD) pipes, from where it goes to regional treatment facilities.
There are five treatment facilities in the district: Lions Gate, Iona, Annacis Island, Lulu Island and Northwest Langley.
Greg Moore, mayor of Port Coquitlam, Greater Vancouver Regional District representative to the Union of B.C. Municipalities, and MVRD chair, said two of the five – Lions Gate and Iona – need to be upgraded from primary treatment-only to secondary treatment.
“Both treatment facilities need to be completely rebuilt,” he said. “Lions Gate must be completed by 2020 and Iona by 2030.”
Moore said that building a new Lions Gate wastewater treatment facility will cost about $400 million and will require the plant to move from its present location below Lions Gate Bridge to about one kilometre east in an industrial area in the District of North Vancouver.
The Iona facility will be rebuilt at the same location in Richmond at a cost of about $1 billion.
FCM President Karen Leibovici said her organization believes the changes to the regulations are reasonable.
“We agree many of the wastewater systems in the country need to be upgraded,” she said. “Some of the systems in the country are over 100 years old.”
The federal government estimates upgrades associated with the regulations will cost municipalities a total of about $5 billion.
The FCM, however, puts the number at somewhere between $20 billion and $40 billion.
The FCM said funding for the new regulations must be added to the federal government’s new Long-Term Infrastructure Plan (LTIP) to pay for the once-in-a-generation costs of meeting the new requirements.
The new costs are above and beyond what municipalities already need to maintain and expand core infrastructure.
The LTIP is being developed by Infrastructure Canada and will be in place before current federal funding programs expire in 2014.
The federal government has not yet announced any plans for additional funding to municipalities that are affected by the new regulations.
Ministry of the Environment spokesman Mark Johnson said the federal government already provides municipalities with funding that can be used to help finance the wastewater upgrades.
“Since 2006, the Government of Canada has committed over $2.3 billion to wastewater infrastructure through a number of programs,” he said.
“Wastewater treatment infrastructure is an eligible category under (a number of programs and funds).”
The story is far from over, however.
Leibovici said the FCM has been having ongoing and positive discussions with the federal government about sharing the cost of upgrading wastewater treatment facilities.