In the lead up to the October 15 municipal elections, The Free Press will be passing along reader-generated questions to the 16 candidates for public office at the City of Fernie.
On Thursday last week, we posed this question from a reader:
“How does Fernie solve the wastewater issue? How does Fernie grow to support housing if the sewer treatment plant is at capacity and overflowing?”
Candidates were asked to answer the question in 100 words or less as if they were at an all-candidate forum.
Only candidates who responded by deadline (October 3, 12 noon) are included. Here are their responses verbatim, in no particular order:
Jesse Mould (council candidate)
I view the waste water /sewage issue as one of the most important issues i will face if elected. It is a daunting task.
Replacement/improvement of the water treatment plant is a must or fernie will not be able to grow.
Jonathan MacGregor (council candidate)
First, eliminate cross connections. This is where people are pumping ground and rain water into the sewer system.
Second, start replacing our decrepit sewer system before we install new roads over top of them.
Third, ban water-cooled condensers (which use water to cool refrigeration condensers), that dump potable water right into the sewer system. Calgary has banned these for over twenty-five years.
Fourth, water meters should be installed and billed for usage. Just installing water meters cuts water use by 30%, according to Natural Resource Canada
Patrick Burke (council candidate)
A communities growth is important for a community. Handling water, sewer and garbage are some of the most import services a city provides. If elected I would ask City staff to orientate council on the status of the water treatment plant capacity and any problems in the past 3 years, what solutions they have implemented and recommendations for the sewer treatment plant in the future. The same would be for water and garbage issues. At this point I do not have a answer for this question and suspect there is no simple answer that will satisfy for Fernie’s potential growth.
Harshan Ramadass (council candidate)
The reader is absolutely correct- this is the single biggest infrastructure item that the next council has to deal with. ‘All hands on deck’ approach is needed. While I don’t believe in micromanaging technical experts, the first item of business for me would be for the staff to appraise the council on current status, project timeline, detailed/itemized challenges and mitigation steps. Devils always in the detail when dealing with complex projects. I’d look for week/monthly update from staff to ensure we are executing within budget/time. I’ll help ensure the resources are allocated appropriately.
Kyle Hamilton (incumbent council candidate)
The simple answer is: We need to replace the wastewater treatment plant.
The reality is: We need to update our Liquid Waste Management Plan, invest in water supply and sewage infrastructure realignments and modernizations, such as the C&L right of way, ensure that we allocate appropriate funding and resources to maintain and repair our systems, and ensure that policies are in place so that new development pays the costs of new infrastructure required for an expanding population and new housing developments.
Ange Qualizza (incumbent mayor candidate)
Taking the guidance from the Ministry is critical to our success, at their request, we have rescinded the Liquid Waste Management Plan and will be developing our new one once our engineering assessments are complete.
We have already sought support across Ministries with in-person meetings, to secure funding and support as we work to meet future growth needed to support the housing-crisis we are in. We are taking a collaborative approach to this project to make sure we get the support we need to advance our next steps of permitting, designing, and funding a solution.
Kevin McIsaac (incumbent council candidate)
Unfortunately, thanks to unanticipated growth and a lack of attention to the Liquid Wastewater Treatment Plant (LWTP) the plant is at capacity and nearing its end of life. An elevated maintenance schedule may extend its life in the short term, but the long-term solution will be a new plant. The council has already talked with various ministries about approaches and assistance in this matter. This one isn’t complicated, but it will be expensive.
Tracey Audia Kelly (council candidate)
My understanding is our problems are serious, the plant and ponds are inadequate and we discharge treated effluent into the river far too frequently to meet the agreed upon operating conditions with the province. Our plan needs to be updated to ensure we are legal. The City has continued to approve building permits but larger scale developments may not be feasible. Kimberley is seeking 95 million dollars for their new system which took three years to design and will be two years to build if funding applications and borrowing are approved. We can’t continue to ignore the problems they aren’t going away.
Troy Nixon (incumbent council candidate)
Desmond Tutu wisely said “There is only one way to eat and elephant: a bite at a time.” Council has taken the first steps by supporting Staff and providing equipment, infrastructure and two new maintenance positions at the lagoons. In September 2022 we met with Hon. Nathan Cullen (Municipal Affairs Minister) and Hon. George Heymen (Environment Minister) at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities to advocate for our community and to put us on the radar for potential assistance. Next steps are identifying inflow and infiltration and being ready for grants. Check out Wastewater System Renewal on Let’s Talk Fernie for updates.
Nic Milligan (mayor candidate)
First, we must understand the true scope and risk our struggling wastewater infrastructure represents and how it could impact growth and our quality of life. Once we understand how vulnerable we may be, we can take steps to remedy the situation including seeking grants from multiple levels of government so that our community does not shoulder the cost. Any solution must be climate resilient and incorporate the long-term prospects of careful, managed growth. Finally, any answer, engineered or nature-based or a combination of the two, must be well managed, properly maintained and ensure the healthy long-term sustainability of Fernie.
April Montague (council candidate)
Fernie should look to other communities that have had to upgrade Wastewater management systems, like Selkrik, Manitoba. Selkirk recently invested in a system that is long term, sustainable and can withstand future growth.
Fernie’s wastewater system needs to be fixed. It is important that the system be designed to withstand Fernie’s future growth. It is also important that Fernie work with other levels of government to ensure our rapid growth rate is taken into consideration when allocating funding for infrastructure renewal and upgrades. I’d love to discuss this more please reach out to me.
Spencer Gough (council candidate)
First of all, these are not new issues. The first step would be to thoroughly review all the past studies and determine the current status of the proposed modifications. Next there needs to be an understanding of the required capacity going forward. Thirdly, and probably most importantly, the city needs to do whatever possible to secure, grants and funding from the various levels of government. Having said all this, there needs to be renewed sense of urgency as these issues and shortcomings require immediate attention, and would be a priority of mine if elected on the housing, we need to work with the developers to ensure that they are contributing making appropriate contribution to the expansion of the capacity of these facilities, and that needs to be married with the overall plan.
Do you have a question you want to hear from all candidates on? Email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will endeavor to reach out to all candidates on your behalf.