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Four Municipalities Team Up to Build Cooperative Wastewater Treatment Plant

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Officials gather in Niverville to announce a major government funding initiative for a cooperative wastewater treatment plan. Brenda Sawatzky

The Town of Niverville’s boardroom was the setting for a major public announcement on August 18. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of four municipalities in the rural southeast, plans can now move forward in the construction of a shared wastewater treatment plant which will serve Niverville and the RMs of Ritchot, Hanover, and Tache.

The project includes a large-scale treatment plant, lift stations, pump stations, and approximately 90 kilometers of effluent pipeline. The total anticipated cost of the project comes to $110 million.

Joint funding for the project will come from three levels of government. A total of $39 million in grant monies will come down from the federal and provincial governments. The municipal collaborative will bear the $71 million balance.

A variety of delegates were on hand to deliver the long-awaited news: Reg Helwer, Minister of Labour, Consumer Protection and Government Services; Kelvin Goertzen, Minister of Justice; local MLA Ron Schuler and MP Ted Falk; and a broader collection of MLAs, mayors, and councillors.

“I’m pleased to share in a major infrastructure announcement today for not only Niverville but for the entire southeast corner of the province,” Helwer told the gathered crowd. “It is indeed a progressive area of the province.”

Helwer says that the creation of a new wastewater treatment plant will help eliminate the need for community lagoons in the future and allow valuable farmland to be used for production rather than waste collection.

“Green infrastructure investment such as this new facility will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Helwer says.

He adds that the project will advance Manitoba’s Climate and Green Plan, meeting international climate change targets and creating a greener province for everyone.

The proposed treatment plant, Helwer says, will easily serve the 30,000 residents of these four municipalities. It will also have the capacity to expand to service up to 70,000 residents as the communities grow or if other municipalities care to join the collective at a future date.

The funding announcement comes 14 years after the idea for a collaborative wastewater solution was first hatched in this part of the province. In 2008, representatives from the four neighbouring municipalities met at an engineering firm in Winnipeg to discuss the feasibility of such a plan. The delegation was led by Hanover reeve Stan Toews.

Round table discussions followed and eventually an oversight board was formed, called the Red Seine Rat Wastewater Cooperative (RSRWC). Members included a representative from each municipality.

Toews became the chairperson of the board.

“Today makes clear the cooperative, creative, and collaborative nature of all the stakeholders involved,” Toews says. “[It’s] an achievement that realizes a decade-long dream of working together as neighbours for the common good of our region.”

Former mayor of Niverville and economic development consultant Gord Daman was contracted to assist the RSRWC in bringing the large-scale project to reality.

“The exciting thing… is that, because we have formed a cooperative, the actual borrowing will be done by RSRWC and so the individual municipalities will not actually have to grant anything back,” says Daman. “That overall cost will be borne through the utility rates that will be set in three or four years when the facility opens up.”

Working as a cooperative has its advantages, Daman adds, in terms of being able to secure lower interest rates.

Equally significant, though, will be the reduction in operational costs when the region moves from managing 13 separate lagoons to just one treatment plant.

For this reason, Daman foresees the possibility that rates for regional ratepayers may not increase by much at all, and they may even have the potential to go down.

Niverville mayor Myron Dyck, says there’s a real upside to the treatment plant in terms of commercial growth in all the communities involved.

“Aside from development on the residential side, there’s also significant industrial companies in this area, and when they are looking to grow, they also need capacity for wastewater,” says Dyck. “The reality is that, if you don’t have [adequate] wastewater [capacity], they will then go to where infrastructure is available and you risk losing them.”

According to a news release related to the treatment plant, lagoons may eventually be a thing of the past for most communities.

“Increasing environmental regulations are making it more difficult to operate with lagoons that were built at a time when environmental impacts were unknown or not considered,” the release states. “Repurposing existing lagoons to meet new regulatory requirements is either cost prohibitive or not possible without full replacement.”

Apart from the collective treatment plant being a sound financial solution, though, it comes with innumerable other benefits, according to its champions.

According to the news release, the project will attract nearly $1.9 billion in new capital investment and construction to the region, and create more than 3,400 new jobs over the coming decade.

The environmental impact is also expected to produce meaningful results.

Lagoon systems are known emitters of methane and nitrous oxide which contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. Current emissions coming from lagoons amount to about 3,200 metric tons per year.

With a mechanical system, these emissions would be reduced to 23 metric tons per year—down by 93 percent. As well, there is significantly less risk of wastewater seepage into ground water or nearby waterways, where bacterial contamination such as E. coli can occur.

In terms of value, it is expected that the treatment plant will provide a cost savings to the region to the tune of about $60 million, as every one of the RMs involved were anticipating lagoon expansions or replacement within the next five to 15 years.

The preferred site for the new treatment plant is the same location as Niverville’s current lagoon, approximately one and a half miles north of town. Although the 160-acre plot is located in Ritchot, an agreement was established between the two municipalities years ago at a time when Niverville needed to expand to a larger lagoon.

Mayor Dyck says that some of the unused 20 acres of the plot will be designated to the plant. If future expansion is needed, Ritchot and Niverville have first right of refusal to annex land adjacent to the lot.

Niverville’s existing lagoon will continue to be used as a holding pond.

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