Major sewer project in the works

Waterfront sewer line $3-million less expensive running under highway than along the beach

One of the community’s major sewer lines will be replaced in the next few years but one councillor thinks the city is making a mistake.

The forcemain, which runs along the waterfront from Rockland Road to where it discharges sewage into a collector manhole near the Maritime Heritage Centre, is nearing capacity and putting stress on the pump system.

Jennifer Peters, the city’s utilities manager, said the “critical piece of infrastructure” was built in 1972 and “is in need of replacement due to condition and to accommodate growth in the southern portion of the community.”

During financial planning sessions earlier this month, council budgeted $300,000 in 2017 for design work, another $6 million in 2018 and $5 million in 2020 to replace the sewer forcemain.

But at last week’s Monday council meeting, Coun. Larry Samson said he’s concerned the city isn’t thinking long term.

“I have serious concerns,” Samson said. “I have concern that we’re not planning for the future.”

Specifically, Samson said it appeared from a McElhanney consultant’s assessment report that the city’s allowance for population growth was too small and that if Area D, which voted down joining the city in order to get city sewer service, changed its mind, the city wouldn’t be able to accommodate the extra homes.

“My concern is we’re putting in a line that is not going to have the capacity to carry us into the future,” Samson said. “Miracles do happen and if all of a sudden Area D decided to join…will this have the capacity to accommodate that growth?”

But Ron Neufeld, deputy city manager and general manager of operations, said that in 2008 an original study was done on a new design based on a population growth of 46,830 people. He said that the model currently being looked at was changed slightly but the number of people is similar at 44,590.

“So it’s been a very small adjustment to the numbers, although the areas that could potentially contribute are different,” said Neufeld.

Meaning that the anticipated growth locations are different now than they were in 2008 when the study was banking on Area D joining the sewer system. Now, the study is focused around potential growth around the Jubilee Parkway area, the area immediately south of Jubilee and possibly increased industrial activity near the airport and Jubilee Parkway, though Neufeld stressed none of those are guarantees.

What will change significantly is the concept for the sewer main.

Instead of twinning the existing line along the beach, council last week approved a new route along the highway.

Peters said the McElhanney report found “significant concerns with the beach route that introduces significant risk to the project and the future operation and maintenance of the pipe.”

According to the report, the original dual forcemain concept, with a seasonal walkway elevated 2.0 metres above mean sea level, has its challenges.

“With sea level rise predictions, the walkway would be inundated and unusable for greater parts of the year, until it will likely be predominantly submerged on a daily basis even during the low tide season. This will render the walkway unusable at anytime, and will also make any required repairs very difficult as well,” the report says.

Provincial guidelines in place for development within near shore environments provide a median prediction of a one metre rise in sea levels by the year 2100 and as much as 0.5 metres by the year 2075, which is just beyond a 50-year planning life span for critical infrastructure such as the new sewer forcemain.

The McElhanney report states that in order to address sea level rise, the city would need to construct a significant embankment, at a minimum of five metres, to allow year-round access to the forcemain pipes. Such foreshore construction, however, is inconsistent with the city’s Sustainable Community Plan which guides development and city growth.

The highway route also wins out in a cost comparison.

The beach route is estimated to cost more than $14 million, which includes contingency and allowances, compared to going along the highway, which comes with a price tag of more than $11 million.