The impact of upgrading the Columbia Pollution Control Centre – better known as the sewage treatment plant for Trail, Rossland and Warfield – could soon present a heavy toll for ratepayers now that Stage 3 of the Liquid Waste Management Plan has been sent to the province for approval.
At best, as owner of the treatment system, the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) is hoping a combination of federal and provincial grants will cover 73 per cent of the $52-million capital project.
Even if the project receives maximum funding of $38 million, Trail taxpayers will be burdened, given the city comprises 68 per cent of the flow fraction and is therefore responsible for 68 per cent of respective costs.
The best case scenario still leaves Trail taxpayers on the hook to cover another $907,240 annually to the regional district, or $104 more per household, based on homes assessed at $200,000.
Without the assistance of any grants, according to the final report written by the RDKB’s Goran Denkovski, the city’s yearly requisition for this service alone would increase close to $2.5 million.
Trickled down to the taxpayer, based on the average home assessed at $200,000, the levy for sewer service would rise from $123 each year to $402 annually.
“In short, if the RDKB is unable to secure grant funding, the cost to Trail will be very significant,” David Perehudoff, Trail’s Chief Administrative Officer, told the Trail Times.
It’s important to note, however, that Trail council has a stipulation in place so taxpayers aren’t hammered with a massive tax increase if adequate financial backing from the government does fall flat.
“When council dealt with the approval of the Liquid Waste Management Plan, they only agreed to proceed on the basis of the RDKB coming back to the city before proceeding with the loan authorization bylaw that will be required to fund the local portion of the project,” Perehudoff clarified.
“In this way, if grant moneys are not secured, council will have another opportunity to assess the financial impacts and determine whether or not the city supports proceeding with the project or decides to defer until grant funding becomes available,” he said.
“The financial magnitude of the project is very significant and in the absence of senior government funding, the project would seemingly be difficult to support when considering the net impact to the ratepayer.”
Comparatively, based on flow volume, Rossland will pay 20 per cent of the costs and Warfield, 11.2 per cent.
According to Denkovski’s report, Rossland ratepayers will be responsible for $267,000 of project costs with the maximum amount of federal and provincial contributions in place. If no funding comes in, the city’s service users will be looking at a $720,000 bill.
Further, assuming 73 per cent is funded by senior government grants, service users in Rossland are looking at a $144 annual increase. With no funding in place, the yearly requisition per ratepayer would go from $312 to $700.
Numbers for the Village of Warfield sit at a $150,000 annual requisition increase, or $104 per ratepayer, if all grants come through. The number rises to $402,000 with no government money in place, or a $422 property tax increase.
Of note, is that Area B has a small number of properties in Rivervale and Oasis tied into the regional system, so they will be responsible for 0.7 per cent of costs. With 73 per cent of capital costs covered through grants, Area B’s annual requisition will increase by $9,300. Without any government help, the amount rises to $25,200.
Coun. Robert Cacchioni, RDKB director, has been involved in regional discussions about the treatment plant upgrades for the past seven years, and in that time, has often reported updates in Trail council meetings.
But it was a big change in federal cost-sharing last year that really caused him worry over the burden this project will have on service users.
“Up until June 2018, the federal contribution was set at 50 per cent,” Cacchioni began. “Without any warning they cut it to 40 per cent, and this added $5.2 million to the cost that has to be paid by the local participants.”
(To clarify, under Infrastructure Canada’s Clean Water and Wastewater Fund Program, prior to last year, the federal government funded 50 per cent of project costs and the province 33 per cent, leaving 17 per cent for municipality to cover.)
Since Trail pays about 68 per cent of related costs, the city will have to come up with 68 per cent of the $5.2 million. That’s in addition to the city’s portion of the RDKB’s loan required to complete the job as well as subsequent operational cost increases related to improved wastewater treatment.
“This adds a considerable amount to the tax bill for not only Trail, but for Rossland, Warfield and Area B,” he added. ”We have also spent over $1.5 million in planning alone.”
Cacchioni says he has written to MP Richard Cannings and to Minister Katrine Conroy, Kootenay West MLA, and asked for the federal contribution to go back to 50 per cent or for the provincial government to increase their apportionment by 10 per cent (to 43 per cent) to help pay for the upgrades.
“We have heard nothing from either the federal government or the provincial government,” said Cacchioni.
“This is disappointing since this upgrade is to conform to both federal and provincial regulations.”
Another disturbing fact is that a small community base, like Greater Trail, is dealt with virtually the same way as large centres like Kamloops or Kelowna, he continued.
“This is concerning since we represent only about 14,000 people and have to come up with an additional $5.2 million over and above the $9 million we have to borrow if the contributions from the governments totalled 83 per cent as promised (pre-2018),” Cacchioni concluded.
“For over six years the committee feels that what was promised, should be provided.”
The Columbia Pollution Control Centre (CPCC) is a primary treatment plant discharging disinfected effluent into the Columbia River.
Provincial and federal regulations now require a minimum of secondary treatment for wastewater treatment plants discharging to the environment.
Secondary treatment is an additional step, after the primary process, that removes about 95 per cent of organic waste materials in wastewater.