BAIE VERTE, NL — When it comes to addressing its sewage outfall problem, the Town of Baie Verte is up a certain type of creek without a paddle, according to its mayor.
Brandon Philpott says the town is faced with the challenge of complying with federal regulations against expelling raw sewage into the ocean.
As in municipalities all over the province, council is not second-guessing the regulation from an environmental standpoint; however, from a fiscal perspective, it is something most towns and cities are so far unable to handle.
In the past, the provincial government has publicly committed to funding a portion of removing sewage outfalls and constructing new infrastructure, but the federal government has not done the same.
That has left many municipalities facing a multi-million-dollar challenge, and small towns especially do not have the resources to comply with these regulations.
In Baie Verte, there are five such sewage outfalls to deal with.
Philpott said the town is considering consolidating some of the outfalls through lift stations and other infrastructure to reduce the impact. However, he said compliance will require at least three major capital projects costing about $800,000 per outfall.
An expenditure of at least $2.4 million is difficult for a town that recently passed a $1.8 million budget, he said.
“The federal government has said these are the regulations and you need to follow them, but there is only so much a municipality can do on its own when you are talking about that level of funding,” said Philpott.
“We are trying to be as compliant as possible.”
According to previous reports, Baie Verte installed flow meters to measure its outfalls after the Jan.1, 2015 regulations came into effect.
Philpott said starting to clean up the town’s sewage outfalls was identified as the number one priority on its recently submitted capital works funding list to the province.
The request is to start by tackling one sewage outfall.
“Believe me, I am a big advocate for (eliminating outfalls) too — I really wish we weren’t doing what we are doing,” said the mayor. “It is OK to make these policies, but to kind of let you go adrift yourself – to try to figure out what you have to do and how to do it – is a bit hilarious.”
The town is also exploring alternative funding avenues, such as grants, to help offset the cost of sewage treatment, according to the mayor.