The following is a response to Mayor Peter Kelly's column entitled A Storm is Brewing, which was published in the Sept. 20 edition of The Weekly News from Halifax Water's Board chair, Colleen Purcell.
Mayor Peter Kelly,
I have recently become aware of an article you authored critical of Halifax Water in its approach to stormwater management. It is important to realize that stormwater management is multi-jurisdictional and Halifax Water, although having an important role, is one of three agencies with responsibility for stormwater. The other two agencies are HRM and the Province of Nova Scotia.
Halifax Water's role, as defined by the Wastewater/Stormwater Asset Transfer Agreement executed in 2007 with the approval of regional council, is the management of municipal stormwater infrastructure in the Street Right of Way or within easements or land deeded to the Utility. HRM still has a prominent role in stormwater management with administration of land use policies and by-laws. The province has responsibility where stormwater is directed to water courses which are plentiful in HRM. In addition to these agencies, private residents also have a responsibility to mitigate runoff to streets and streams, as contained in the MGA, HRM Charter and Halifax Water rules and regulations.
Notwithstanding the aspect of multi jurisdictional roles, Halifax Water has been pushing HRM for policy development with regard to the installation of deep storm sewers where none exist today. The Halifax Water Board which is comprised of yourself, three members of regional council, HRM's CAO, and three private citizens, approved a staff recommendation in January 2009 for a proposed cost sharing of deep storm sewers with HRM and local residents where a sanitary system exists, but there is no deep storm sewer. This was forwarded to HRM in February 2009 in an effort to formulate policy to deal with this deficit in stormwater infrastructure. In conjunction with this policy, Halifax Water staff have been attempting to fund capital projects to improve stormwater service to customers. As an example, Halifax Water completed a pre-design study last year and put funds in the 2012/13 capital budget for improvements in Eastern Passage. As you know, this area has become a catalyst for policy development with HRM council recently directing HRM staff to present recommendations to council with input from Halifax Water. This in itself is a recognition that stormwater management is a shared responsibility. I am pleased to report that HRM and Halifax Water staff are actively engaged in a review of stormwater management activities to formulate policy and report back to council in the near future.
In addition to funding specific projects in the near term, Halifax Water recently completed an Integrated Resource Plan [IRP] which is a 30 year plan for infrastructure investments and also recognizes the deficit in stormwater infrastructure. This deficit was not created by Halifax Water, but is a legacy issue from previous municipalities where line departments looked after the stormwater operations. Notwithstanding the needed improvements to stormwater infrastructure, we should also point out that the wastewater system is also in poor shape, and not state of the art that you refer to in your article. In fact, as Halifax Water has been publicly stating for the last number of years, the wastewater/stormwater system is in a very poor state of repair(with the exception of the Harbour Solutions Project) requiring an estimated investment of $2 billion dollars over the next 25 to 30 years. This too is a legacy issue inherited by Halifax Water from previous municipalities, but we are pleased that significant progress is being made to turn the situation around. In particular, Halifax Water has been successful in its recent rate application to introduce depreciation as an expense to provide funding for capital investment in wastewaster assets.
Given time and the required investment through the NSUARB regulated environment, which is a transparent and open process, Halifax Water will have a world class service delivery for wastewater and stormwater on par with the service delivery for drinking water. In that regard your encouragement and participation at our board meetings is always welcome to ensure Halifax Water delivers on its mission.
Chair of Halifax Water Board