Infrastructure was the big topic of discussion at last night’s council meeting. Not only was the Water and Sewer Utility budget considered and passed, but Mayor Fiacco gave a summary of discussions that took place at the recent Big City Mayors Caucus meeting in Moncton which were focused on Canada’s growing infrastructure deficit.
According to Fiacco, Canadian cities are labouring under a $123 billion infrastructure deficit. The potholes everyone was complaining about during the election are just one symptom of the problem. Sewers, water pipes, streetlights, sidewalks and roads: it’s all in bad repair. And as Fiacco pointed out, that $123 billion only represents how much municipalities are falling behind. The federal and provincial governments also have their own infrastructure deficits to deal with.
To begin the process of working out a solution to the impending doom by imploding sewer pipes that most cities are facing, Fiacco is spearheading an Infrastructure Summit to be held in Regina from January 26 to 28 in 2011. His idea was unanimously approved by the Big City Mayors and several municipalities have offered to help out. And at last night’s meeting, Regina’s council confirmed the dates.
Also discussed, in relation to the Water and Sewer Utilities budget, is a serious upcoming expense for the city. Thanks to changes made by the federal government to environmental regulations, the city will have to do a massive upgrade to its waste water treatment facilities. Councillor Clipsham referred to it as being the biggest capital project in the city’s history and it will severely tax Regina’s finances. Concerns were expressed that to finance the project, the city would have to max out its borrowing, leaving them little room to borrow for other projects such as transit improvements.
Amidst all this hand wringing about paying for the upkeep of the city’s infrastructure, there was at least one interesting development. You might remember that in my preview of the week’s happenings at city hall I mentioned there would be a presentation on some kind of technology that would extend the life of our sewer system and reduce Regina’s carbon footprint to boot. (And, a quick correction: I referred to the company as being In-Pipe Technology, but actually the company is called Waste Not Ltd and they use a system called In-Pipe Technology.) And I mentioned how I had no idea, based on the company’s submission to council, what that technology was.
Well, Councillor Murray asked the question I wanted to ask — what does Waste Not’s In-Pipe technology do exactly? Turns out, they install boxes in the sewers that drool bacteria into our sewage. Waste Not’s bacteria kill off the bacteria that’s already there — the kind that creates things like sulphuric acid, greenhouse gases and bad smells — and basically takes over the microscopic ecosystem of underground pipe network.
Councillor Bryce expressed concerns about what would happen if Waste Not’s “bugs” got out into the larger ecosystem and according to the company rep, Shayne Robinson, they’re actually naturally occurring bacteria that wouldn’t be able to do any damage. Another concern was how the bacteria would fare in Regina’s climate and according to Robinson they have performed well in other cold-climate cities.
In the end, council agreed that the technology was worth exploring further and referred Waste Not and their critters back to administration who are to look into the feasibility of a pilot project.