Bridgewater proposes new sewer tariff for new development to offset wastewater costs


New developments in Bridgewater will soon be subject to a new sewer tariff as the town comes up with measures to cover costs to complete wastewater system upgrades mandated by other levels of government.

The Wastewater Betterment Charge Bylaw, which town council expects to pass in mid-June, sets a minimum residential fee of $1,500 per unit and a baseline commercial rate of $20 per-square-metre on new construction. The commercial fee is capped at 900 square metres. Additionally, the rate calculation for commercial floor area would be capped at a 900 square metres under certain conditions.

Rates attached to new institutional and industrial uses will be set by the town's engineer on a case-by-case basis with the calculation based on projected discharge.

There is no expiry date on the new bylaw whenever it comes into effect. The charge is a one-time fee impacting developers and the cost is not retroactive on existing construction, said David Mitchell, the town's mayor.

With the new bylaw, future developers know the cost of the sewage tariff upfront and the money goes into an upgrade fund, Mitchell told LighthouseNOW during a telephone interview. There are provisions for a portion of fees to be paid on construction projects involving existing development contracts with the town.

What is behind the town's new bylaw is a 2039 deadline mandated by other levels of government to eliminate current wastewater overflows, described as unprocessed sewer discharged into the environment, likely to a body of water. All municipalities in the country must meet the deadline.

"Despite past investments by the Town of Bridgewater, the town currently experiences significant wastewater overflows during wet weather events," Audrey Buchanan, the town's environmental services manager, explained in a written report to council.

"The existing combined wastewater system on the west side of the LaHave River contributes the majority of the inflow/infiltration water that causes overflows during wet weather events."

Bridgewater's sewage treatment plant was built in 1990 and the town has also authorized a series of spending measures over the past few years to ensure replacement of aging equipment.

Town officials noted wastewater upgrades are needed to sustain the existing infrastructure and allow for development. With capital spending on the LaHave Street plant and related items, the town turned to creating its own legislation to help.

"Even when the whole system is redone ... new development is going to require new expansion of the system, so that [bylaw] money will be used for that," Mitchell said. "It's a continuing cycle."

Similar sewer charge rules exists in the Municipality of East Hants and in Halifax.

A 2018 study of Bridgewater's sanitary stormwater system estimated that spending of between $25 million to $48 million would be needed to meet wastewater facilities and operations requirements dictated by federal and provincial regulations.

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