MODL LaHave river project – program to remove straight pipes
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
To: Mayor Don Downe, and Council Members
Municipality of the District of Lunenburg
After months of work by the MODL LaHave River Project Team, four public meetings,
several council working sessions, and talking to residences Councillor Bell
presented the following motion onbehalf of the team and Councillors:
"that Municipal Council authorize staff to make application to the New Build Canada Fund
for a Straight Pipe Replacement Program for the proposed LaHave River
Wastewater Management District and to execute the Memorandum of Understanding with Nova
Scotia Environment; and further, that Council direct staff to prepare a draft wastewater
management district by-law and a capital replacement program, based on full cost recovery
of municipal funds, for Council's consideration; the final approval of which will be
contingent upon Council approval of the necessary by-law and program policies and
successful award of the New Build Canada Fund."
Following the motion being made he then presented his address to Council in support of the motion. Here are excerpts from that presentation:
Today, let's think about our impact and make a positive change.
The Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Queensland in northeastern Australia, is the largest
living thing on Earth, and even visible from outer space. The
2,300km-long ecosystem comprises thousands of reefs and hundreds of islands made of over
600 types of hard and soft coral. Twenty years ago a team of scientists from the James Cook
University told us that this great living structure was starting to bleach. Bleaching is when
corals are stressed by changes in conditions such as temperature, light, or nutrients. They
then expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn completely white.
One of the biggest contributors to this is the burning of coal by nations like Canada, China,
and the United States. While we knew this for years we did nothing. Now in the last five years
we have lost 15% of this largest living thing on Earth and are only now starting to pay
attention. In the next five years we may very well lose another 15% or more. I point this
out because many of us say, Oh well this isn’t any concern of mine. Well maybe this is too
far away from us to be concerned but there are things right in our own municipality that we
should be concerned about. There are things that WE can do something about if we only try in
some small way.
The LaHave River, according to tests, isn’t fit to swim in. Some people, some scientists, say it
shouldn’t even be boated on since you shouldn’t even touch the water.
You certainly can’t drink it. The reason our river; your river, my river, Lunenburg County’s
river, is polluted can be directly linked to the decades old practice of straight pipe discharge
of sewage into the river from people’s homes. It’s our dirty little secret. But the secret is
out. A young adult by the name of Stella Bowles who shared her science project to about 2,100 of
her followers on Facebook are listening and social media shared this dirty little story with a
million readers. For too many years many of our politicians and leaders have been ignoring the
problem for too many years. Stella isn’t alone. People like Dr. David Maxwell, groups like
the Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation, and even some politicians are beginning to wake up.
It’s not the smell of roses that they’re finding, though. It’s a completely different smell.
And, as you read on the front page of the Lighthouse, “Ducks don’t use toilet paper,” so don’t
blame them for the problem.
We have also heard that the Town of Bridgewater places a significant volume of water that may not be
fully treated but I point out they have been making a continuous
investment in upgrades since the 1960’s and we need to be seen as doing the same. With new
regulations we will see further improve- ments.
You’ve heard some people call it a problem of “rich people’s poo in the river.” Well, it’s more than
that. It’s estimated that six hundred homes pipe their untreated,
raw sewage direct into the river. At an average of one thousand litres a day, which is about
the average for a three person home (345 litres per person per day), that’s six hundred thousand
litres of sewage going into the river every day. Everyday. And, it’s against the law. That’s
right. It’s against the law. Right now we have the opportunity to access federal funds (BCF)
to help us start making things right. Right now, we can use those funds, and funds from the
municipality, (which would be repaid by property owners) and maybe even funds from the province
to reduce the impact on homeowners and taxpayers to install what we should have been installing
for the last half century: approved septic disposal fields. And maybe, just maybe, if we act
quickly, we can use federal, provincial, and municipal dollars to spread the twelve thousand
dollars for each straight pipe to be fixed out over five to seven years and make the remediation
easier on the pocket books of people living in those homes. Not all of them are rich people –
some of them have lived in their houses for decades, or live in houses passed down to them over
generations. Some of them; some of us couldn’t afford to buy the houses we live in at today’s
real estate prices. They’re our friends and neighbours. They’re our brothers, sisters, cousins,
parents and grandparents. Through this program we may get the price down to just $147.00 a month.
But to do this we need to partner with the homeowner, the provinicial government, the federal
government, and we (MODL) need to provide the leadership. We can’t provide leadership with a
big stick. That’s what some individuals think is the simple route. Frankly, I’ve never seen
evidence that control-based thinking and strategies produce sustainable results. Sure you
can get a dog’s attention by yanking on a leash attached to a choke collar. But, as soon as
the dog is off the leash, it’s either back to the old habits or if it’s had enough, attacking
the person who yanked the leash. Of course these homeowners aren’t dogs, and we don’t literally
leash people that continue to use straight pipes. But all of the control-based strategies by
authority to order compliance by NSE or us, to control people’s behavior by using “psychological
leashes” will still provide resistance without a replacement program. I do want to point out
through that I feel property owners that have straight pipes are expected to financially
contribute to addressing the issue and the solution. However, here is another area where we
(MODL) can provide leadership. Let’s not shake that big stick at those on fixed or low incomes,
but instead look at a way to defer these upgrade/replace costs until the property’s ownership
is transferred. Then MODL collects all costs, plus interest at time of transfer.
Even if you don’t live on the river, you’re affected by it: every tourist dollar that it brings in;
buying gas, eating in restaurants, staying overnight, boating,
swimming, or just enjoying the beauty. We all living in this region need those dollars.
We’re a group. We collect and share our tax monies. This year we’ve got Capital Projects in
Cookville and New Germany. We’re working on sidewalks. We’re improving
Osprey Village. Not all of our projects directly help people that live in other areas of the
county, but we all work together to support each other. I use the example of Church Lake access
where MODL funds from all regions went to fund an asset that will be mostly used by local people
but we all have the benefit of this great lake access.
This river is part of our heritage. For many of us, water simply flows from a faucet, and toilets flush
and take away things we don’t want to deal with. We think very
little about it. We have lost our respect for the river, for the complex workings of our tidal
waters, and for the complex systems of life that our river supports. Because the effluent we put
into our river just doesn’t affect us – it affects the wildlife and plant life, too.
Why wait until the LaHave River estuary is beyond hope or salvage? Dr. David Suzuki says, “It shouldn't
be up to young people to clean up the messes we have made. After
all, we don't even allow them to vote — to choose who will make decisions on their behalf. And
they will be most affected by the decisions made today.” It’s time for everyone in the area,
from New Germany to Risser’s Beach, to get behind this project. We’re all travelling on the
same ship, and we’re the crew. Just because you don’t work in the engine room doesn’t mean
that keeping the engines running and in good shape isn’t important to you. Just because you
don’t live on the river doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect your life. Or your children’s lives.
Let’s fix it now.
If I may, I want to end with the words of Justin Trudeau, “We must make important changes if we want
to leave the next generation with a clean environment”.
MODL Wastewater Management – Reflecting, Prudence, Fairness and Equality
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
To: Warden Jack Wentzell, and Council Members
Municipality of the District of Lunenburg
Good government has the ability to change. Change is needed to address changes in time and
conditions and outside forces that require our ability to seek solutions to address these changes.
From time to time one must step back and look from the outside and see if what was set up is
still working and is it the best arrangement for today to handle our goals and objectives.
An example might be the national railroad where it was seen as being the tool to give everyone a
standard of living that could deliver goods and supplies at a reasonable cost. In the early 1800’s
you had the Atlantic Railroad and it extended to the Grand Trunk Railroad in Upper Canada. But
profits could only be made in the east as smaller rail systems in the west cost too much to
maintain or operate. Canada in 1850 was a patchwork of discontented colonies, groping their
way toward united nation-hood. But Canadians then, as they do today, faced the future with
confidence in themselves and faith in their destiny. By working together and setting rates at
reasonable levels along all the lines and the sharing of resources it helped with continued growth
westward. Canada today is a power among nations, with a great and growing influence in world
affairs because of the railroads of the past. Then in the 1970’s when the eastern lines started to
lose money, some in Ottawa and the office towers of Toronto and Montreal decided to lift the
tracks in many areas of eastern Canada. Now in the early 2000’s we see that decision was wrong
as we all pay more for goods and services like food, and industries prefer to locate in Quebec and
Ontario where rail service is still available. Here we see change was needed to address changes
in time and conditions and outside forces but the government failed to seek solutions to address
these changes and took the easy way out. Our nation was founded on the principles of sharing
the wealth and working towards solutions that gave all areas a reasonable level of service at a
reasonable level of cost.
Another example is when Canada was young and Nova Scotia was considered rich we used our
resources to fund growth west. Companies like Cunard Shipping and Bank of Nova Scotia
provided resources that gave Nova Scotia the “have province” ability to fund Ontario and Alberta.
Then suddenly areas like Nova Scotia and Newfoundland fell upon hard times and were the “have
not” provinces and people in Ontario soon forgot about the help they got from the east. Well,
now in year 2008, Newfoundland is moving back to the “have status” and Ontario is falling to the
“have not” status. So, do we as Canadians fairly address capital resources and operating funding
of these provinces, and if not do citizens living in these areas encounter hardships?
On Wednesday, April 9th, the Federal Government of Canada (Hon. Baird) stated that they would
ban the dumping of sewage into rivers and oceans, even sewage that has been partially treated.
As we know many of our villages like Dayspring, Lahave, and Riverport now dump raw sewage
into the river and our citizens will inevitably face increased taxes through Area Rates or sewage
fees because of the new federal rules. This is an example of why more than ever this Council
must go to a Global Rate for wastewater treatment or the MODL are going to have to get use to
the idea of using General Taxes to help fund Area Rates.
Our own Provincial Environment Minister the Hon. Mark Parent said Atlantic communities, many
of which don’t even have primary sewage treatment, lag behind the rest of the country, where
many communities are doing secondary treatment. Look at how many straight pipes don't allow
for any treatment right now. We have several Shore Drive style areas that the MODL are going to
have to address. There are also areas like Turner Heights in Lower Branch and areas off the Pine
Grove Road area where future requests may come for assistance to develop municipal
wastewater treatment facilities.
I have been saying for six years now that in developing any policy it is prudent to establish a
framework of principles or goals which will form the basis against which that policy is
implemented or applied. Some of those ideas I was able to get passed as you already know.
Fiscal responsibility, prudence, fairness and equality should be the cornerstones of this process
regardless of what community you reside in.
In considering a sanitary sewer policy, it should be noted that only a few areas of the
Municipality are served by central sewer systems but under new incoming Federal laws there may
be many more. While the majority of properties have private on-site sewage systems, Municipal
Councils have determined that the public interest would best be served by developing a public
sewer system in certain communities. The wastewater sanitary sewer policy should fairly address
capital and operating funding of these public systems and should not be sidetracked by the
reality that most property owners in the Municipality bear the cost of their individual private onsite
Fiscal responsibility and prudence, when sensibly applied, suggests that capital funding recovery
should be placed as fully as possible on those who directly benefit from connection to the
sanitary sewer system. However, the level of capital recovery should not be so high as to drive
existing property owners from their home or business or stifle any reasonable prospect for new
development or renewal within the sewer system catchment area.
The cornerstones of fairness and equality should recognize that while there is uniformity to the
sewer service provided, there are considerable variables in both the capital and operating costs
of each Municipal sewer system. It is further noted that the principle of universality forms the
foundation of many government policies. For example, postage for a letter is constant
irrespective whether the letter goes just a mile or across the country. So, should there be wide
variations between area rates levied for the various sewer systems in our Municipality? The lack
of size and scale in all our sewer systems has produced wide variations in costs to build and
operate each sewer system, but in actuality a common level of service is provided within all
serviced areas like New Germany, Conquerall Bank, Hebbville, or Cookville.
It should also be noted that the benefits of a central sewer system extend well beyond the
system's service or catchment area. For example, businesses in serviced areas benefit from their
connection to the sewer system, but their customer base is much larger. Is it a coincidence that
the overwhelming percentage of our retail and service businesses are connected to public sewer
systems. A prudent sewer policy may also be a factor in economic development like it was in
Osprey Village or exit 12 area. We as a Council know the importance of further development of
the serviced area at Osprey Village.
While the service level is consistent across the various sewer systems, the unit costs to build and
sustain each system varies widely due to an array of topographic factors, density of service
connections and the proportion of commercial to residential assessment within the service
catchment area. The Hebbville system, as an example, is doubly blessed by having a significant
revenue stream guaranteed by an agreement with the Bridgewater Public Service Commission
(which also paid a substantial portion of the last upgrade to the system when the water
treatment plant was built) and by the fact that the Hebbville system is only a flow-through
system with no treatment component. While it is true that an annual fee is paid to the Town of
Bridgewater, that cost is very favorable relative to the capital and operating costs that would be
incurred by property owners within this system area if this Municipality were required to operate
its own sewage treatment plant to service the Hebbville system.
The Municipality needs a sewer policy that requires as much of the cost as possible; both capital
and operating; to be levied on those properties connected, or capable of being connected, to a
public sewer system. Given the small scale of our systems, however, some capital costs may
have to be carried on the general tax rate at least until adequate reserve funding is put in place.
All properties within a public sewer catchment area should share a similar level of cost for this
same service level irrespective of which sewer service area they are within. We do this with
other services, like solid waste. In that case, the cost to collect and transport waste is higher
from more distant communities such as Lapland than from Oakhill, but the cost base for this
service is per stop, irrespective of the location of that stop. So someone who lives in Dublin Shore
or Baker Settlement pays the same General Rate even if it costs the MODL more to collect their
garbage than say Dayspring’s or Oakhill’s. A similar blended rate should apply to at least
operating cost recovery for all Municipal sewer systems.
Another example of fiscal responsibility, prudence, fairness and equality was a letter from our
very own Council to Mr. Lyle Goldberg, of the UNSM in March of this year. In that letter we
stated that the capping of assessment has had a positive impact on reducing the cost of services
from the Province to municipalities with high assessment growth, such as the MODL. The example
we used is if the CAP were to be eliminated, the MODL could lose over $600,000 to extra
education payments next year. The CAP prevents further shifts to the MODL in education and
other provincial service costs that are based on uniform assessment. With the CAP in place we
have a level of certainty for our property owners. We also understand there are residents that
have difficulty paying their tax bills due to rising assessments. If we added an Area Rate of
anywhere from 18 cents to one dollar and forty seven cents we would increase difficulty for these
same residences but yet are providing them all the same type of service. Let’s provide for that
same positive impact on reducing the cost of services when those services are the same and give
a level of certainty for our property owners.
Thank you for taking time to read my comments and I would be glad to provide additional
comparisons for your consideration.
Councillor Martin E. Bell, PCP, EMD-Q, CMG