The federal government will provide $8.1 million in funding for upgrades to the Joint Abbotsford Mission Environmental System (JAMES) Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Abbotsford MP Ed Fast made the announcement on Friday morning at the Matsqui Centennial Auditorium.
The funds will come from Canada’s gas tax fund.
“I’m very pleased to see that Abbotsford is continuing to be recognized by the federal government as being one of the fastest growing regions in the country,” said Fast.
He said growth has “outstripped our ability” to provide services, making it critical to expand infrastructures like wastewater treatment.
“This $8 million is going to go a long ways to not only increasing our capacity to provide wastewater treatment to our growing community, it is also going to improve the quality of the effluent flowing into the Fraser River.”
Fast said that was an important component because to qualify for gas tax funds, a project has to have a “green component.”
The planned JAMES plant upgrades increase its handling capacity by 61 per cent. It’s anticipated the upgrades will also allow the plant to meet or exceed both municipal sewage regulations as well as address anticipated federal regulations. The plant will gain a new primary effluent pump station, secondary clarifier, biological sludge pump station, effluent pump station and waste solids thickener. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $18.9 million, with remaining costs to be provided through other funding programs or user rates.
The funding announcement was encouraging new to Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman.
“Whenever the government comes with a big chequebook that’s a good day for the city of Abbotsford and Mission.” he said.
The JAMES plant upgrade is the first of several planned for the coming years.
“As cities grow you have to deal with wastewater, that’s just part of it. So the upgrades to the JAMES treatment plant are ongoing and will continue to be,” said Banman.
And more gas tax funds could be made available as the need arises.
The fund provides money to local governments to help build and revitalize public infrastructure. Created with taxes charged on gasoline purchases, the money is distributed to the provinces and handed out to successful applications.
In December, the federal government passed legislation to make the fund a permanent annual investment of $2 billion.
Banman said the fund may be useful for other projects.
“This deals with the water part going out, after we’re done with it. We also now have to plan for the future, for the water coming in,” he said.
Abbotsford needs to create a new water supply to meet future needs and the mayor said “everything is back on the table” to be examined and discussed.
“We are going to have a full discussion about what the different options are, that’s my goal … I’d like some town hall meetings so that the public knows … it takes the mystery and the secrecy out of things,” said Banman.
When asked if funding could be available for a new water supply, Fast said it was too soon to tell.
“I’m waiting to see what new proposals they come forward with.”
He also said the federal government is working on adressing infrastructure needs.
“We’re starting to design a new long-term infrastructure plan for municipalities and we’re collaborating across the country … now that program obviously won’t be fleshed out and fully operational for several years and so at this point in time, I’m glad that the city recognized that the gas tax fund is another source of green infrastructure funding and they applied and they’ve been successful. So, it’s a good day for Abbotsford,” said Fast.