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Funding for wastewater facility upgrades not in Butte’s budget

Posted on March 28, 2024 by Sunny South News

By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News

Provincial and Federal regulatory changes to municipal wastewater treatment facility requirements have the Town of Picture Butte unsure of how they will fund the infrastructure upgrades required to bring the Town’s system into compliance. 

MP for Lethbridge, Rachael Thomas met with the Town of Picture Butte during the March 11 council meeting to discuss some of Town’s top items of concern and priorities. 

Mayor Cathy Moore started the discussion, calling attention to the funding deficit for the Town’s wastewater plant. 

“I am hoping we can go back and seek more funding,” Moore said adding, “we don’t have the money and I don’t know where we are going to get the money from and keep our community running the way it should be.” 

Town administration confirmed the total cost to fund the project is between $10-12 million. 

Moore continued, “for us to have to borrow, it takes up a lot of our borrowing capacity, and the federal government, I don’t know what they’re input is, but it is very little.” 

“I haven’t found any Funny arrangements for (the) wastewater systems,” said the Town’s CAO, Keith Davis, adding, “we have to meet these increased standards because of federal regulation changes”, as well as provincial frameworks. 

In order for the Town’s wastewater infrastructure to be in compliance with the regulatory standards, a number of changes would need to take place.  

Associated cost, according to Davis, “under our Alberta government provincial regulation, we have to monitor suspended, solids and oxygen demand in the effluent that we release to the river,” and said, “the new regulations require us to have ammonia and phosphorus removal, and that Is basically three quarters of the cost to implement those systems into our wastewater treatment system.” 

Thomas inquired about the deadline of these upgrades, which according to Davis has already passed. 

The Town is currently waiting for Alberta Environment to approve the design.

The $10-12 million wastewater project is also inclusive of work planned to twin of the main lift station pipe which according to Davis, “is a town-needed” project intended to increase the capacity for but added, “the treatment requirements are regulatory and also we need to do a two kilometre pipeline down to the river.” 

Councillor de Kok noted that changes to the regulatory framework by the federal government has offloaded the cost onto the municipality and ratepayers.  “It’s unfair that the federal government and provincial government say ‘you’ve got to do this, but you have to pay for it’. If you are going to mandate us to do something, put some money behind it.” 

Davis noted the impact on residents would be substantial. “(If) you break that down, a $10 million dollar upgrade just for wastewater over 900 residents, if you do the math on that, it’s ridiculous. We are not a big municipality and we can’t share the cost across a large number of households.”

Thomas said with the federal Budget 2024 being released on April 16, she would, “go through that and detail and see what might apply,” to the Town’s wastewater project. 

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