Partners agree to mediation on regional sewer service

After years of disagreement on how to share regional sewer costs, proponents have negotiated a deal to resolve the current stalemate.

At a Regional District of Kootenay Boundary board meeting last week, the sewer committee, including members from Warfield, Trail and Rossland, recommended the district sell 1.32 acres next to the sewage treatment plant to the City of Trail.

Rossland opted to consent to the deal and in return, Trail had to make a concession to something Rossland has been arguing for.

“Part of Rossland’s resolution was, that we would agree to it, that is, if Trail said that the sewer review process is done – over – and that they will proceed with a planning process for Phase 2 of liquid waste management,” said Rossland Mayor Greg Granstrom.

In exchange, Rossland would undertake mediation, “not arbitration,” in determining a fair restructuring of the funding formula, he said.

The board passed a resolution that “the sewer review process is complete and a declaration to cooperatively proceed with Stage 2 of the plan be received.”

Prior to the agreement, Trail deemed the sewer review incomplete because of the unresolved issue of an alternative funding formula. Trail sought a formula based on usage while Rossland maintained that sewer costs should be shared based on flows, which have historically been unreliable despite attempts to fix flow meters.

“Rossland, Trail and Warfield has agreed that we will take the sewer review issue to mediation,” said Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs. “In other words what we are saying is that the sewer review issue is complete but we didn’t get a settlement of course, but it’s complete.”

The regional district is now looking for a mediator to work out a cost-sharing solution for all parties.

“We just want a funding formula for the current situation . . . but hopefully what the mediator comes forward with will be something we’re able to use on a larger scale,” said Bogs. “We want this settled, it’s gone on for three years on a serious stage and probably a bit longer than that.”

RDKB administrator John MacLean said the three parties will participate in mediation and that a new funding formula will be reworked and standardized to ideally accommodate current and potential users such as the Beaver Valley.

Provincial regulations mandate that municipalities upgrade municipal sewer systems to secondary treatment by 2019, otherwise face heavy fines.

The regional sewer treatment plant in Waneta provides a primary level of treatment that removes solids and adds chlorine to effluent – the minimum level of treatment, and is the only plant in the province still in operation at that level.

“With this step, we’ll be back in the good books,” said MacLean, referring to Rossland, Trail and Warfield’s renewed commitment to move ahead with the process.

Mediation is preferable to binding arbitration, as arbitration is a long road and the ministry would rather see it dealt with locally, said MacLean.