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Funding Approved for Sydney Harbour Cleanup

Jul 01, 2015

June 30, 2015 - 2:31pm
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WESTMOUNT — The Cape Breton Regional Municipality is getting some relief for its $454-million wastewater infrastructure deficit with the announcement of a $58-million project to clean up Sydney Harbour over the next 10 years.

The municipality is splitting the cost of the project equally with the federal and provincial governments, with engineering work underway and construction expected to begin next year.

Central Nova MP Peter MacKay, Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan and Mayor Cecil Clarke announced Tuesday that each level of government would contribute $19.3 million. That will go toward the cost of a sewage and stormwater collection-and-treatment system that will run the length of the harbour, from the Dobson Yacht Club up to North Sydney.

“This is the best Canada Day present a mayor can receive,” Clarke said following the announcement at the yacht club.

“For our community to have strategic infrastructure that improves the quality of our water and, more importantly, the quality of living here within the CBRM, it’s very heart-warming.

“It’s been a long, hard road to get to these types of announcements, but it’s also proof of the working efforts at all three levels to get to some positive change.”

Clarke thanked councillors for working with him on tough budget decisions over the past two years and thanked municipal staff for providing the background work that allowed the municipality to come up with a solid five-year capital plan.

That plan helped the municipality gain support for its infrastructure works.

“This is all part of not just wishing your problems away, but working on solutions,” he said.

The municipality will have to borrow $19.3 million over the next 10 years to pay for its share, said Clarke, but it can afford to do so because of the decisions council has made.

Once the project is completed, no more raw sewage or overflow from storm drains will flow directly into the harbour.

“What you’re going to see for the west arm of Sydney Harbour is you could actually get back to a sailing program with children learning to sail in the harbour and enjoying the water for recreational purposes, as well,” said Clarke.

“People used to swim in this harbour. They used to come down to the shores. They don’t do that now, but with the Sydney side being done it will allow for a pristine harbour.”

Last year, the municipality completed a $15-million project to collect raw sewage and stormwater from 14 outfalls along the east side and send it to the Battery Point treatment plant in Sydney’s north end, where Muggah Creek drains into the harbour.

The new project on the west side will only take in three raw-sewage outfalls, but it will cost more because a sewage-treatment plant will have to be built in Sydport Industrial Park, said Matt Viva, the municipality’s manager of wastewater operations.

The first couple of years will mostly be spent doing detailed planning, he said, with digging on sewer-collector lines along the shore to start next year.

The treatment plant will likely be under construction about three years from now and will cost around $21 million.

All told, the project is expected to generate nearly 280,000 hours of work.

“Currently, for the 7,000 resdients of Westmount, Coxheath and some in Sydney River, we provide wastewater collection services, but it discharges raw into the environment,” said Viva. “So, at the end of this project, we’ll treat that wastewater.”

The municipality has been struggling for nearly five years to get a handle on its wastewater infrastructure deficit, following the introduction of federal regulations that require sewage and wastewater treatment across the country by 2021.

MacKay said the federal government has put $14 billion into the New Building Canada Fund to help municipalities deal with infrastructure projects like this one, to clean up the environment, provide jobs and open up economic possibilities.

“This is a long-term project,” he said. “Cleaning up the harbour and having wastewater treatment is extremely important for communities like Sydney that are growing, that want to have business opportunities, that want to attract more activities in the harbour.”

MacLellan said the project was an easy one for the province to support because it gets people working and improves the environment.

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