Hold MRC mayors accountable over sewage in Wakefield, Quebec

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by admin on March 3, 2010

The Editor,

I have been following the MRC des Collines debate about a proposed new septic waste plant. It would appear that elected officials proceeded without doing adequate homework and without consulting their citizens.

Several years ago, the MRC at Gracefield built a septic waste treatment plant at Kazabazua. The same consulting firm that is now involved with planning for a facility for the MRC des Collines was engaged. The final $4 million cost for the facility was enormously higher than first communicated. Since inception, design flaws and operational problems, which, for the most part, have not been detailed to the public, have also heaped further unplanned costs upon the taxpayers.

It had always been hoped by inexperienced politicians that the solid output from the Kazabazua facility would reach a quality whereby it could be used as a form of topsoil. Now, many years later, this solid output has not yet attained an acceptable quality, such that the host community for the plant has passed a by-law making it illegal for anyone to use the output.

MRC des Collines mayors need to convince their citizens that they have thoroughly reviewed the mistakes made at the facility at Kazabazua, and need to provide assurance they will not be repeated. They will also need to demonstrate that they can competently provide requirement specifications to the consulting firm, if taxpayers let them proceed.

Designers will want to know what septic waste volumes will need to be processed over the next several decades. A major factor will be the number of septic tanks that will need to be emptied and transported to the treatment plant. Most of the more than 85 MRCs in Quebec, including MRC des Collines, are continuing to disobey the provincial government’s foolish Q2.r8 law to force permanent residents to empty their septic tanks every two years, even if only one person lives in the home.

If the MRC des Collines does not work up the courage to deal directly with contesting this law, then will it build the new plant much larger than necessary (i.e. by four or five times) to meet the law at huge cost and increased neighborhood trucking? Or, will it build for smaller volume, risking a future costly upgrade if the government forces them later to obey the law? Citizens need to make sure that these questions are answered.

If the solid output from a new treatment plant cannot meet environmental standards, where will it be stored? Will it have to be expensively hauled to Lachute like for regular garbage? Will municipalities, or contractors, be forced to buy expensive pump-and-return septic trucks?

There is a highly possible, simple and much less costly, solution. Modern garbage incineration and gasification plants can accept raw septic tank sewage. Rod Bryden, CEO of Plasco Energy Group, confirmed this to me long ago. West Quebec MRCs, together with the city of Gatineau, are supposed to be looking for a modern facility to deal with garbage. Why build two waste plants when only one is required?

Citizens should not be forced to pay for a non-optimal and unnecessarily high cost solution because of an ignored deadline that now needs to be re-negotiated. Citizens should not allow a single square inch of property to be set aside, nor any treatment plant to commence, without demanding honest and competent answers to so many questions that have yet to be addressed.

Hold your mayors accountable.

Steve Connolly

Low, Quebec