Province reaffirms its commitment to separating storm and sanitary system in Charlottetown
Charlottetown residents are facing an increase in their water and sewer bills.
That's when, or if, the three levels of government proceed on a mega project to separate the capital city's storm water from its sanitary water system.
Right now, there is still 12 kilometres of work that needs to be done to completely separate the system.
The cost of the project has been tabbed anywhere from $18 million to $24 million.
Split three ways that boils down to approximately $8 million each.
Mayor Clifford Lee said Thursday such a project would have an impact on rates.
"It is humanly impossible not to impact the water and sewer rates with that type of expenditure. The rates are going to go up,'' Lee said. "It's a matter of what amount of an increase are we going to have here.''
The city is currently trying to find ways to minimize that impact and that's where the federal government comes in.
Lee met with federal Environment Minister Peter Kent and National Revenue Minister Gail Shea last week about the project.
Charlottetown MP Sean Casey asked Kent in the House of Commons on Nov. 21 what Ottawa's plans were for Charlottetown's harbour.
The 12 kilometres of system that hasn't been separated yet combines storm and sanitary water. Heavy rains can overwhelm the system, spilling effluent into the Hillsborough River and harbour.
New federal environmental rules also now force municipalities to treat raw sewage.
Kent told the Commons said Ottawa does provide $3 million annually to Charlottetown as part of its share of gas tax funding.
"Municipalities and the province have to do their part to make waste water management their priority,'' Kent said.
Lee said Charlottetown has already spent $1.8 million of that gas tax money on things like resurfacing roads and traffic control signals but is willing to spend a portion of it on the waste separation project.
"Council hasn't made a final decision on that yet but my expectation would be, in an effort to keep the water and sewer rates as low as possible, that we would be directing some of that money.''
But it won't be nearly enough to cover the city's portion of the separation project. That's what Lee was in Ottawa for, to lobby for more money.
Lee is optimistic the feds will step up with some money.
"Quite honestly, I feel a lot more hopeful today than I did two weeks ago that we'll be able to work something out with the Government of Canada,'' the mayor said.
Shea's office wouldn't comment on the meeting.
"It is not our practice to comment on private meetings,'' said Nancy Bishay, director of communications for Shea.
P.E.I. Finance Minister Wes Sheridan reiterates the province's commitment.
"For our own cause, we will have new dollars that will be coming forward,'' Sheridan said. "We confirmed (our support) with Clifford Lee before he went to Ottawa. We gave him confirmation of our support.''
Sheridan said the province has had its share of the cost allocated for some time on the operational side of the budget.
"It's not our asset but we know what this means to the City of Charlottetown and we will be there to do our part.''