Rothesay wastewater treatment plant price tag up 50%

The cost to build a new wastewater treatment facility in Rothesay has ballooned by nearly 50 per cent, leaving the town considering its options for going forward.

At a recent town council meeting, town manager John Jarvie said the project, originally billed at $21.7 million, will now likely cost $32 million due to “a number of recent economic factors.”

First announced in summer 2021, the original price tag was split between all three levels of government, with more than $8.6 million coming from the feds, $7.2 million from the province and $5.7 million from the municipality.

The town can’t shoulder the $10 million increase to the project alone, though, Jarvie said.

The town currently has two wastewater lagoons in Kennebecasis Park and one at Sagamore Point, and originally planned to expand capacity at Sagamore Point and route all wastewater there to a new, “start of the art” treatment centre.

The new process would rely not on chemicals but instead employing “biologic processes” to reduce organic material in wastewater, followed by ultraviolet sterilization, returning water to the Kennebecasis River “with quality as good as, or better than, its natural flow,” Grant said when the project was first announced.

Now, town staff are proposing a phased approach to the project, using some of the money already secured to expand Sagamore Point’s lagoon and upgrade it, “acting as an interim project” until the town receives approval for the cash to build the new wastewater treatment facility.

“The thought is, we can use some of the money already approved,” he said, adding there’s “still hope” the town receives the amount of money required to complete the full project as originally planned.

“It’s a phase in the initial project, which will improve the quality of the wastewater entering the river,” he said. “It’s a creative way of moving the project forward.”

The idea is to keep as many options open as possible, Jarvie said, but the approach will have an even larger price tag, though, estimated at $37 million.

The only other option is to increase the rate on residents’ water bills, he said.

When the project was first announced in 2021, Grant said it was “too early to say precisely” what effect the project would have on utility rates.

But, she added, “I want to assure rate payers we are cost conscious and will maintain a sewer rate which is competitive with other communities in the region.”

At the 2021 announcement, Rothesay MLA Ted Flemming said the community was growing, and “finding a place to clean that water is necessary.”

During the spring floods of 2018 and 2019, Rothesay’s three water treatment lagoons flooded, which contaminated the Kennebecasis River.

“We never want that to happen again,” Grant said.

Rothesay’s town council voted to accept the proposed phasing plan, though no dates have been solidified. The project is anticipated to be completed around 2030, “subject to getting sufficient grant money,” Jarvie told council.

Marlo Glass, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal