Keep Drainage Edmonton citizen coalition calls on City Council to keep Gold Bar Waste Water Treatment Plant



    EDMONTON, Oct. 28 /CNW Telbec/ - On Wednesday, October 29, City Council
will receive a report from the civic administration advocating that it
transfer the operations of the Gold Bar Wastewater Treatment Plant to EPCOR
for a period of seven years, and a payment of $75 million over the term of the
agreement. The Agreement, to be negotiated solely by the City Manager and
concluded March 31, 2009, includes authority to address "asset and land
ownership and control ... for sites including the Gold Bar Plant, the Clover
Bar Biosolids Recycling Facility, and the Bremner Lagoons" (City of Edmonton
report 2008PW2132).
    "There is virtually no information by which City Council can adequately
judge this proposal," said Andy McCready, a private citizen member of the
coalition. "When it was proposed in 2005 that the City transfer all Drainage
assets to EPCOR, there was at least several months' research by an independent
consulting firm, a report of some 200+ pages, and a public hearing at which
over 30 presentations were made to Council over two days. This time, Council
is being asked to make a decision as if this were strictly a matter of
improving the bottom line of the civic budget based on five pages received
from the Administration."
    When EPCOR was rebuffed by City Council in September of 2005, Council
hired the Drazen Consulting Group to investigate allegations that the
municipally-owned utility was not well run. Drazen's review, to the contrary,
stated that the utility was not only well run but that keeping it in City
hands was the best decision Council could have made. Now Council appears
poised to make a decision its own consultant opposed just three years ago,
without public consultation or any public debate. Citizens have a right to be
heard on the future of this facility paid for with tax dollars.
    The Parkland Institute has also raised concerns over taking an asset paid
for by public tax dollars out of the public eye and putting it into private
operation.
    "Although EPCOR is a city-owned company, it operates entirely as a
private corporation," said Ricardo Acuna of the Parkland Institute. "Its
dealings and contracts are entirely beyond the purview of public scrutiny.
There is no accountability to or oversight by the people of Edmonton over the
workings, service, and decision-making of EPCOR."
    Other members of the coalition, such as the Sierra Club, Prairie Chapter,
have expressed concern that the Drainage Branch, which has over the years been
the most willing entity within the civic administration to work with
stakeholders to improve its operations and environmental performance, will no
longer have the authority to ensure that Edmonton maintains its environmental
leadership. EPCOR is not bound by the same requirements given its emphasis on
profit potential.
    Other issues of concern include the future of the independent research
partnerships with the University of Alberta and other post-secondary
institutions in an environment in which intellectual property is likely to be
corporatized.
    The Keep Drainage Edmonton coalition is also concerned that this
initiative move represents more than just the thin edge of the wedge. City
Council has already given taken away the authority to market processed
wastewater to refineries and other industrial users, pioneered by the Drainage
Branch, away from the Branch and given that same authority to EPCOR. Following
that with an Agreement to transfer the plant to EPCOR is merely an incremental
effort to achieve the same result rejected by City Council in 2005.
    The Keep Drainage Edmonton coalition emphasizes that its objection to
this proposal is no comment on EPCOR or its ability to deliver power and water
services to Edmontonians. Its objection is, instead, rooted in concern for the
public good and the idea that a monopoly service utility should not be
operated beyond public view.
    The coalition calls on City Council to, at the very least, conduct a
public hearing on the matter before making any decision to gauge the will of
Edmontonians with respect to the Gold Bar Wastewater Treatment Plant, a
$700 million facility that is operated to world-class standard with
world-class spin-off benefits for all citizens.




For further information:

For further information: Spokespersons from the Keep Drainage Edmonton
coalition will be available to answer questions by telephone from 3:00 to 4:30
p.m., Tuesday, October 28, 2008; Ricardo Acuna or Andy McCready, Parkland
Institute Private Citizen, (780) 492-0417, (780) 414-1450; To see a history of
this issue, visit our website at http://www.keepdrainage.com. COALITION OF
EDMONTON CIVIC UNIONS

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Canadian Union of Public Employees - Alberta Regional Office

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