City Council Wrap Up: Sewer Bugs and Infrastructure Woes

Infrastructure was the big topic of discussion at last night’s council meeting. Not only was the Water and Sewer Utility budget considered and passed, but Mayor Fiacco gave a summary of discussions that took place at the recent Big City Mayors Caucus meeting in Moncton which were focused on Canada’s growing infrastructure deficit.

According to Fiacco, Canadian cities are labouring under a $123 billion infrastructure deficit. The potholes everyone was complaining about during the election are just one symptom of the problem. Sewers, water pipes, streetlights, sidewalks and roads: it’s all in bad repair. And as Fiacco pointed out, that $123 billion only represents how much municipalities are falling behind. The federal and provincial governments also have their own infrastructure deficits to deal with.

To begin the process of working out a solution to the impending doom by imploding sewer pipes that most cities are facing, Fiacco is spearheading an Infrastructure Summit to be held in Regina from January 26 to 28 in 2011. His idea was unanimously approved by the Big City Mayors and several municipalities have offered to help out. And at last night’s meeting, Regina’s council confirmed the dates.

Also discussed, in relation to the Water and Sewer Utilities budget, is a serious upcoming expense for the city. Thanks to changes made by the federal government to environmental regulations, the city will have to do a massive upgrade to its waste water treatment facilities. Councillor Clipsham referred to it as being the biggest capital project in the city’s history and it will severely tax Regina’s finances. Concerns were expressed that to finance the project, the city would have to max out its borrowing, leaving them little room to borrow for other projects such as transit improvements.

Amidst all this hand wringing about paying for the upkeep of the city’s infrastructure, there was at least one interesting development. You might remember that in my preview of the week’s happenings at city hall I mentioned there would be a presentation on some kind of technology that would extend the life of our sewer system and reduce Regina’s carbon footprint to boot. (And, a quick correction: I referred to the company as being In-Pipe Technology, but actually the company is called Waste Not Ltd and they use a system called In-Pipe Technology.)  And I mentioned how I had no idea, based on the company’s submission to council, what that technology was.

Well, Councillor Murray asked the question I wanted to ask — what does Waste Not’s In-Pipe technology do exactly? Turns out, they install boxes in the sewers that drool bacteria into our sewage. Waste Not’s bacteria kill off the bacteria that’s already there — the kind that creates things like sulphuric acid, greenhouse gases and bad smells — and basically takes over the microscopic ecosystem of underground pipe network.

Councillor Bryce expressed concerns about what would happen if Waste Not’s “bugs” got out into the larger ecosystem and according to the company rep, Shayne Robinson, they’re actually naturally occurring bacteria that wouldn’t be able to do any damage. Another concern was how the bacteria would fare in Regina’s climate and according to Robinson they have performed well in other cold-climate cities.

In the end, council agreed that the technology was worth exploring further and referred Waste Not and their critters back to administration who are to look into the feasibility of a pilot project.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5’10” tall and he was born in a place. He’s not there now. He’s sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It’s “Girl From Ipanema”, thanks for asking.

You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

8 thoughts on “City Council Wrap Up: Sewer Bugs and Infrastructure Woes”

  1. good wrap up paul, thanks for going to these meetings and thanks to dogblog for getting the info on here

    do any other news media report on city affairs? i went to a meeting early last year and saw a CBC guy there for about 30 mins, then he took off and didn’t return – there was one other media person too, i think from CKRM

  2. Thanks a lot for reading, jeff. It’s much appreciated.

    As for your other question…. Joe Couture at the Leader Post does a great job of covering city hall. And he swears less in his writing than I do. Also, Patrick Book from CJME is always at council meetings and his write ups are on their website and definitely worth reading. (I have to confess I can’t listen to talk radio any more, so I’m not up on how their on-air coverage is).

    Mainstream media generally gets a bad rap for ignoring local news, and maybe that criticism is true elsewhere. But as far as I can tell, to their credit the Post and Newstalk do a good job of keeping an eye on things downtown.

  3. I always find it a bit frustrating that Council gets in a knot about paying for the upkeep of infrastructure and complain about the infrastructure deficit and yet still approve more development on the outskirts of the city. All taxpayers subsidize the development of that infrastructure whether they live there or not.

    If we focused on infill (which uses current infrastructure) it may lessen the load – not to mention move towards the dense, vibrant city we (including Council) all would like.

  4. At the very first planning commission meeting I ever went to, they were considering the Harbour Landing community plan. There was a councillor back then who argued that Harbour Landing should be considered infill.

  5. jeff: A very good question. I hear it’s getting worked on.

    advanced restoration: I’m sure it will. But my question for you is why are we getting comments from so many spam bots?

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