Municipalities forced into wastewater deal need province to make good on the money

A Red Deer County councillor expressed concern on Tuesday that government cutbacks could cause communities to drop out of a regional sewer line project.

A Red Deer County councillor expressed concern on Tuesday that government cutbacks could cause communities to drop out of a regional sewer line project.

Innisfail and Olds are already at capacity and need to find a way soon to treat their sewage, said Councillor Jim Lougheed, who is the county’s representative on the South Red Deer Regional Wastewater Commission. The commission is overseeing a $107-million project to build a sewer line from Olds to Red Deer.

The commission recently heard that the province wants to stretch out its funding for the line over more years because of the difficult economic climate. That could delay completion by about two years, pushing it ahead to 2013 or 2014.

What worries Lougheed is that uncertainty over the regional sewer line could prompt municipalities to pursue other options. Olds has already suggested it may look at a lagoon system, rather than tie into the sewer line, he said.

“At this point, the commission members are trying to arrange a meeting with our local MLAs and other provincial (officials) to put pressure on them to try to make the funds flow until this project is finished.”

Lougheed said the Alberta government told communities to join the commission.

“They didn’t have any say in the matter.

“And now the program has been, or there’s worry or fear, that funding may be cut back.”

“So, they’re kind of at a standstill as far as their growth goes,” Lougheed said.

“My feeling is if you mandate that municipalities become members of this regional commission and you start the project, I think there’s some obligation to follow through with those funds to complete the project.”

Olds Mayor Judy Dahl confirmed they have been talking with the province about other options besides joining a regional sewer line that might not come soon enough for the growing community.

“The truth of the matter is we’re at the end of the line. We’re phase three and we’re faced with the dilemma of a shortage of funds from the provincial government.”

Dahl said the municipality has met with the environment and transportation ministers, who understand the town’s predicament. It’s too early to say what options will be considered.

The town planned its own upgrade five years ago but the province preferred a regional system so that was put on hold. But the town now finds itself as the last community scheduled to be hooked up to the regional line at a time when provincial funding has become less secure.

Meanwhile, the town’s existing treatment lagoons are aging and at capacity and there are developments underway or proposed on all four sides of the town of 8,000.

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