After waiting for nearly a year, Smithers town council has been informed by the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) – Rural and Northern Communities Program that the grant applied for to upgrade the Wastewater Treatment Plant has been denied.
Citing “a significant rise in applications, not the reflection on the importance of this project for your community,” Brian Bedford, Executive Director, Local Government Infrastructure and Finance, wrote the project was not selected for funding.
The denial of grant funding has council scrambling over how to deal with the treatment plant not being in compliance with the Fisheries Act.
In April, 2020, Environment and Climate Change Canada issued the Town of Smithers a written warning for exceeding the authorized concentration of suspended solids in the effluent (25mg/L) and carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand concentrations (CBOD) of deleterious substances, also exceeding the 25mg/L allowable limit. In 2017 the average, CBOD concentration for the Smithers WTP was 47.7mg/L.
In discussions about steps to take next, Coun. Frank Wray expressed concern over the amount of time the process is taking and is uncomfortable with the possibility of significant fines looming.
Wray also expressed his frustration with the fact that during this whole time effluent is still being discharged.
Mayor Gladys Atrill said she spent a great deal of time speaking with other municipalities, mayors and ministers at the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities conference on how to get the project funded and completed.
This is the second time the town of Smithers has applied for the grant and the second denial.
“We have a definite need in our infrastructure, we don’t have the tax base to have enough funds to complete a project of this size, and if this request (for grant funding) doesn’t qualify, what does,” Atrill said.
Coun. Greg Brown offered his skills in grant writing to town staff, to collectively look at a proposal, and use everyone’s skills to create an application “that they can’t turn down.”
Coun. Lorne Benson suggested bringing the issue to the next strategic priority meeting Oct. 19 so more sets of eyes could look at it as well.
Mark Allen added to the conversation that the town has corrected the reporting issues, and has remained current to this point, but is in agreement upgrades must be a priority.
If the upgrades are not undertaken, the town, if convicted, could face a fine for a first offense of not less than $500,000 and not more than $6 million.