CBRM advancing plans to establish a UARB-regulated water/wastewater commission

June 13, 2023

SYDNEY, NS -   CBRM Council has moved a step forward in the establishment of a new governance and operational structure for water and wastewater in CBRM. The CBRM Water Utility and CBRM Wastewater Department are in process of becoming a UARB-regulated commission named the CBRM Water and Wastewater Commission. 

The changes planned will modify how the delivery of water and removal of wastewater are funded. The new model will be entirely based on customer usage. Currently, the system is a combination of customer use billing and property tax billing. 

“Under the new model, residents will no longer see a sewer charge on their tax bill.  The cost of wastewater collection and treatment services will appear as a separate line item on their water bill,” said Greg Campbell, Manager of Technical Support Services – Utilities at CBRM. The new Commission will apply to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) to set rates. The next step in the project’s progress is a rate study to determine the appropriate rate for the service delivery. 

The CBRM Water Utility provides treated water to residential and commercial customers.  Current customers are billed by water usage as recorded by their in-home meter.  The operations of the CBRM Wastewater department are supported by taxes. All residential and commercial taxpayers on municipal wastewater systems pay a “sewer rate” of .191 per $100 of assessment. 

The new structure proposed will remove the wastewater component from the tax rates and will begin a user pay system that measures water usage and estimated discarding of wastewater. The addition of wastewater to the calculation reflects the service provision of sewer services that address water that leaves the home. Examples include water from showers, washing machines, toilet flushing, sprinklers, etc.  

Federal regulations require wastewater to be treated before re-entering the environment.  Currently in CBRM, capital projects are underway to eventually treat all effluent from the municipal systems to comply with regulations. Some treatment plants are complete, such as the treatment plant in Dominion. The Battery Point treatment plant in Sydney will require upgrades to meet new regulations. Plants are under construction in Westmount, Glace Bay and Port Morien while others in North Sydney, Louisbourg, New Victoria and New Waterford areas are planned, but not yet funded. 

Council first approved the exploration of the establishment of a Commission structure to oversee water and wastewater in December, 2022.

More detail on the project’s planning is available in the council documents presented on June 13, 2023.