Fredericton — The City of Fredericton is close to finalizing a plan that will phase out sewage services to city residences by 2019. Although not yet formally approved by Fredericton City Council, the initiative has the support of most city councillors and the motion is expected to pass at the next council meeting. The Manatee was granted an exclusive interview with Brent Callingdale, manager of Public Works.
“The City of Fredericton, along with the Fredericton Area Pollution Control Commission, has been providing cheap and environmentally responsible sewage collection and treatment services for decades,” he explained. “However, the changing habits of residents have been placing ever-increasing strain on the system, and we are simply unable to cope with these challenges in a cost-effective manner.”
“The primary cause of the city’s sewage problems,” continued Callingdale, “is when city residents flush objects down their toilets that simply aren’t meant to be flushed. For years we have been dealing with objects such as cigarette butts, condoms, paper towels, expired goldfish, Tim Hortons cups, lotto tickets, and feminine products being flushed down city toilets, along with cooking grease being poured into sinks. These foreign objects clog the pipe system and the grease packs around them. These clogs have caused sewage backups, and if these objects do make it through the distribution system they cause significant problems at the treatment facility on Barker Street.”
As a result, the city can unfortunately no longer afford to continue offering sewage services to its residents.
Callingdale shared a copy of the council motion to be tabled to eliminate sewage services. It detailed a multi-year, multi-phase plan to gradually phase out services.
“We will not immediately discontinue sewage services, but rather, it will be a gradual process starting this year and continuing until the complete phaseout in 2019,” he said. “Once the council motion passes we will discontinue our pipe-cleaning program. As sewage pipes become clogged we will not repair them. By mid-2017 we anticipate that more than half of the city’s pipes will be unusable, reducing the demand on the treatment plant by at least 50 percent and allowing us to scale back treatment operations.”
To make up for the lack of sewage services, the city is purchasing 50,000 portable toilets. A minimum of one Porta Potty will be placed on every house’s front lawn in the city, with 2 provided for families of 4 or more. Additional units will be placed strategically along sidewalks in the downtown core and in clusters in city-owned parking facilities.
“We recognize the hardship that this initiative will place on our residents; however, we see no alternative,” Callingdale continued. “If we were to continue to provide sewage services with the level of reliability that residents expect, we estimate that we would have to double property taxes by 2020. Keep in mind that it is only in recent history that people have had indoor plumbing. Prior to the early 20th century, most people used outhouses and holes dug in the ground, and they got along just fine.”
The motion to suspend city sewage services will be debated during the next council meeting and is expected to be approved and enacted during that sitting. Once the motion is passed, the City of Fredericton will provide more information and details to residents through brochures and public information sessions. The portable toilets have already been ordered and shipments are expected to start arriving this summer.