McGuinty Government Has Not Met All of the Walkerton Recommendations, OSWCA Study Finds Water Systems Are Generally Not Sustainable in Ontario



    Attention: Study Contains Specific Information about Water Systems in
    Ottawa, Hamilton, Barrie, Belleville, Port Colborne, Niagara Falls,
    Thorold, Chatham-Kent, Niagara Region, Halton Region, and Wainfleet
    Township

    TORONTO, Sept. 27 /CNW/ - Contrary to claims this week by Ontario Premier
Dalton McGuinty, his government has not yet implemented all 121
recommendations of the Walkerton Inquiry, says the Ontario Sewer and Watermain
Construction Association (OSWCA).
    The Walkerton Inquiry recommended sweeping reforms to protect Ontario's
drinking water systems including financial requirements for sustainability.
The province responded by passing Bill 175, the Sustainable Water & Sewage
Systems Act. But the McGuinty government never proclaimed the Bill.
    "Because of this failure, there are still no requirements for
municipalities to adopt full-cost pricing for water-related services or create
dedicated reserves for capital projects. As a result, these aging systems
continue to be grossly under-funded, and that presents a serious risk to the
safety and reliability of our water," said OSWCA Executive Director Frank
Zechner.
    To identify the extent of these problems, OSWCA commissioned a study of a
representative sampling of municipalities across Ontario. The report, being
released today, found that water rates in most jurisdictions continue to be
set below what is needed to ensure that the systems are self-sustaining.
    In addition, the study noted that crumbling underground pipes in some
areas are causing leakage rates as high as 30 per cent. It estimated that
leakage is costing ratepayers more than $160 million a year across the
province, money that could be better used in maintaining and upgrading the
system.
    The report, prepared by Financial and Management Consultant George
Barkwell, CA, CMC, pointed to short-term political decision-making at the
local level as a key reason for the continued deterioration of these systems.
    "In many cases, the local political need to keep a ratepayer happy for
the short term with less-than-needed rate increases is too much of the driving
force behind these major decisions," the report concluded. "But pushing off
the reality of providing funding for capital replacement only compounds the
problem in the future."
    In the absence of provincial leadership and guidelines, there is no
consistency in how municipalities set rates, estimate the life expectancy of
pipes, or calculate capital replacement requirements.
    Zechner noted that the province tried to 'fudge' on this issue by
recently passing a regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act requiring
municipalities to declare that their water systems are sustainable.
    "But all a municipality has to do is simply file a declaration. There is
no objective review or independent assessment. It falls far short of what was
endorsed in the Walkerton report and it indicates that this provincial
government is not serious enough about these vital issues," said Zechner.
    Finally, the Barkwell study calculated that that if the average cost of
residential water and sewer was increased across the province by about 40
cents a day, this alone would generate more than half a billion dollars a year
for infrastructure upgrades and replacements.
    The Barkwell study examined 11 municipalities with a combined population
of over 2.3 million people, or about 19 per cent of the population of Ontario.
Participating municipalities included: Ottawa, Hamilton, Barrie, Belleville,
Port Colborne, Niagara Falls, Thorold, Chatham-Kent, Niagara Region, Halton
Region, and Wainfleet Township.
    The full report is available on OSWCA's website, www.oswca.org, and is
titled A Study of the Status of Full Cost Recovery and Sustainability of
Ontario Municipal Water and Wastewater Systems.
    OSWCA is committed to the construction, rehabilitation, maintenance and
expansion of Ontario's core water and wastewater infrastructure to ensure a
plentiful supply of clean water and the preservation of our lakes and rivers.
Established in 1971, the association represents over 700 companies within the
sewer and watermain construction industry.





For further information:

For further information: Frank Zechner, Executive Director, OSWCA, (905)
629-7766; Dena Fehir, PR POST, (416) 777-0368

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ONTARIO SEWER AND WATERMAIN CONSTRUCTION ASSOCIATION

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