Archive for May, 2010

-For Immediate Release –

Several organizations in Powell River have come together to form a new coalition – the Powell River Water Watch Coalition – to oppose the co-treatment of Powell River’s municipal sewage as outlined in the recently signed Agreement in Principle (AIP) between the City and Catalyst.  The AIP privatizes the city’s sewage treatment as part of a deal to cap Catalyst’s municipal taxes at $1.5 million.

CUPE Local 798, Powell river Municipal, Library and Regional District Workers, the local chapter of the Council of Canadians and the three ratepayers associations – Townsite, Wildwood and Cranberry – have come together to fight what spokespersons call a “high risk” and “poorly thought out” plan, and to demand that the City keep the sewage system public.  The local chapter of the Sierra Club has also joined.

“The announcement (of the Agreement in Principle) came as a total shock” said Karen Skadsheim of Townsite Ratepayers.  “And instead of proceeding carefully and with maximum public consultation, they are skipping ahead to pre-design because of tight funding deadlines and a vague indication from some minister that we might be able to get a forgivable loan from the province.  I understand that a ‘need for speed’ to meet funding deadlines is what got us the under built – and expensive – sewage treatment plant that now needs replacing.”

The Coalition points to the Feasibility Study done for the city by engineering firm Dayton and Knight, which raises serious concerns about the agreement.  “The potential ‘showstoppers’ to co-treatment originally identified by Dayton and Knight, such as uncertain long-term viability of the mill, still exist.  Dayton and Knight also state quite clearly that the ‘facilities would not be viable if the Mill ceased operation’ and we would be faced with another crisis – having to build a fully operating system on short notice,” said Skadsheim.

The group says that even a quick reading of the AIP shows that it is a thinly disguised concession to Catalyst’s continuing demands to have its taxes drastically cut despite court rejection of its rationale.  “We will be paying the mill $750,000 a year to treat the waste – a number they admit has nothing to do with the actual cost to Catalyst.  In contrast, Quesnel, with a similar agreement with its mill, pays just $200,000.”

Most citizens in Powell River are still unaware of this agreement as there has been no public consultation to date.  The public Advisory Committee – required by the Ministry of the Environment – had until recently not met for two and a half years, and was only asked to meet by Council after the AIP was negotiated and signed.

“What kind of consultation is that?” asked Cranberry Ratepayers’ chair Tony Colton.  “You get the strong impression that the City wants to get this done before people know the implications or get a chance to express their views.”

Last week, City Council decided to “fast track” the process by combining phase two of the feasibility study with the “pre-design” phase.  This is despite the fact that the province has not pledged any money for the project.

“What’s the hurry?” said Colton.  “Dayton and Knight did a thorough study of four options in 2007.  Now that’s out the window, and they are being asked to take a bad plan and try to make it look good.”

Murray Dobbin, representing the Council of Canadians, pointed out that almost all of the current City Councillors ran on the platform of open and accountable government.  “We want the Council to make good on its election promises and have real public consultations where everyone in the public will have the opportunity to learn about the details of the AIP and to have their questions answered.  The Councillors should not be afraid of taking this issue to the public.  They will learn important information about the pitfalls of this attempted privatization.”

The coalition is circulating a petition, handing out information on the deal at various locations around the community and putting up posters about “Why the deal stinks”.  The coalition will also be holding a public meeting to discuss the issue.  The website, prwaterwatch.wordpress.com, includes numerous city documents related to the deal including the AIP itself and the Feasibility study.

For more information, contact:
Karen Skadsheim at prwaterwatch@gmail.com


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Here is a link to the CBC backgrounder about Hamilton’s disastrous experience with privatizing their water & waste water treatment.


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Highly entertaining video from the folks at http://www.keepwaterpublic.ca presented for your viewing pleasure.

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Several concerned Powell River community groups have come together to form the Powell River Water Watch Coalition.  These groups were shocked by the City of Powell River’s surprise announcement in April 2010 that they had reached an Agreement in Principle with Catalyst Paper for, among other things, co-treatment of municipal sewage in the Catalyst Powell River mill.  The great speed and total lack of public consultation or input for the agreement was extremely alarming.

Each group believes strongly that ownership, operation and management of water and water-related utilities must remain in the hands of the public.  The deal struck between the City of Powell River and Catalyst Paper will put Powell River’s wastewater treatment in the hands of a private corporation whose only duty is to maximize shareholder return, not answer to taxpayers.

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