Halifax Water is seeking input from the public on a season disinfection program that they are looking to implement under the lens of cost savings. Presently, Halifax Water operates 5 waste water treatment facilities across the city, they are located in Eastern Passage, North Woodside, Downtown Halifax, Herring Cove and Mill Cove. The proposal would only apply to four of the 5 sites, Mill Cove would not participate in this program if approved by the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment.
Currently, what happens with waste water treatment is that it is screened to remove floatables, suspended and/or settled solids and organic waste from the water. In the last stages at all treatment plants, it undergoes a ultra-violet (UV) disinfection process that kills bacteria in the water before it is discharged back into the harbour. The proposal from the utility is that from November 1 – March 31st, the UV disinfection would not occur at the plants in Eastern Passage, North Woodside, Downtown Halifax or Herring Cove. Under the frequently asked questions it states that if accepted this change would save operating costs, and extend live of the UV disinfection equipment. In a CBC Article, it was cited that this change would save $1000/day. If implemented it would save an estimated $150,000 annually. Now, I will admit that to me yes, 150k seems like a fair amount of money, but in the scope of the utility and their budget I am sure it is a mere drop in the bucket. When you consider that general manager Carl Yates, has actually had his salaries increase and as of 2009 was making 188,605.53 as referenced from a FOIPO I found online. I find it laughable that a utility is granting pay increases to senior staff, but in the same breath trying to effectively reduce services.
However, in principle I am not opposed to utilities finding efficiencies that will save money that will benefit everyone. I am opposed to a utility that will openly pollute any body of water. Questions they address on their website regarding this proposal go into little detail, and make it quite difficult for residents to make an informed decision on whether is change is good or bad. In 2015, I believe it is foolish of any company to say they wish to discharge water back into our harbour with bacteria that we could remove. Effectively, what we are saying is that savings matter more than the environment. Furthermore, we spent millions on a proper waste water treatment system to end pollution to our harbour. The Harbour Solutions project was a proud turning point for our city, and if we are making any changes to waste water treatment it should be enhancing it, not reducing it.
Lastly, to suggest that we don’t use the water during those months is a false statement. We have fishing vessels going in and out from Eastern Passage, Herring Cove, and Sambro. There are surfers in the water during some of the winter months in Cow Bay. And in the end, we do not know what the long term effects this change could cause if implemented. This is a short-sighted , knee jerk reaction from Halifax Water where there are trying to save on the back of our environment.
Public feedback is open until February 20th, by contacting James Campbell.