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Green light for Metro sewage plan, but costs unclear

Soaring fees expected in some areas without cost-sharing
Metro's Iona Waste Water Treatment Plant discharges into Georgia Strait between Richmond and Vancouver.

The province has approved Metro Vancouver's new liquid waste plan but is giving no assurances it will meet the region's key demand to share in the expense of building advanced new sewage treatment plants.

The plan commits Metro to replace the Lions Gate and Iona sewage treatment plants – the two remaining ones discharging – by 2020 and 2030 respectively.

The two projects are expected to cost $1.4 billion and threaten to dramatically increase sewer system fees for home owners, particularly in Vancouver and the North Shore.

For the Lions Gate plant, North Shore residents face the prospect of fees rising from $250 per year now to $1,400 unless the federal and provincial government step in to share a third of the costs each. Vancouverites could see their sewage costs soar to nearly $1,200 a year.

"We're talking big bucks," said Metro waste committee chair Greg Moore, the mayor of Port Coquitlam. "We have to get their support to build these things."

Moore said he's still optimistic Victoria and Ottawa will look favourably on Metro's requests for support for the plant replacements.

For one thing, he said, Metro has pledged to accelerate the rebuild of Iona, completing it by 2020 if the senior governments pitch in.

"There's no way we can afford that if it's not cost-shared," Moore said.

All other sewage treatment plants in the region are already use more advanced secondary treatment systems.

Iona and Lions Gate have been targeted in the past by environmental groups who have tried to launch private prosecutions against Metro, alleging the effluent discharged to the ocean contravenes the Fisheries Act.

The new Integrated Liquid Waste and Resource Management Plan also commits Metro to treat sewage as more of a resource, from which nutrients, energy and water can be reclaimed.