“We view this as a very rural-unfriendly piece of legislation.”
– IAN WISHART
Manitoba farmers want Winnipeg to stop growing until it has fully upgraded its sewage-handling system.
A resolution passed at the Keystone Agr icul tural Producers annual meeting said the province should “encourage the City of Winnipeg to suspend all urban expansion” until the planned expansion of its sewage and waste water treatment system is complete.
The resolution also called for the city to impose a special levy on property transfers to pay for the system.
KAP president Ian Wishart acknowledged the resolution is somewhat tongue in cheek. But it sends a message that new government rules on human sewage disposal discriminate against rural landowners, he said.
The province last September announced changes to the Onsite Wastewater Management Systems (OWMS) regulation under the Environment Act to ban the installation of new sewage injectors and require existing ones be removed when properties change hands.
KAP says anyone who is not connected to a municipal sewage system and relies on a sewage ejector or holding tank will be affected.
Wishart said lots of rural residences are low value and not worth spending $12,000 to $25,000 for a sewage injector so they can be sold. As a result, some may simply be abandoned when occupants move out.
“We view this as a very rural-unfriendly piece of legislation,” said Wishart.
What really upsets farmers is that the province gives Winnipeg ample time to upgrade its sewage system, but not rural residents, he said.
Winnipeg frequently discharges raw sewage into the Red and Assiniboine rivers during the summer when heavy rains cause storm and sewage drains to overflow. The Clean Environment Commission in 2003 ordered the city to sharply reduce the number of overflows while not increasing the risk of basement flooding.
The city is expected to have a plan in place by 2012 but implementing it could take until 2028.
This is a sore point for rural residents who see Winnipeg getting favoured treatment, said Wishart.
“The message (to government) is, if we’re going to have to do this, why is it that you always turn your back when the City of Winnipeg has to do it and give them more time?”
KAP delegates also adopted a resolution encouraging rural Manitobans with sewage ejectors to appeal their property tax assessments to reflect the devaluation of their residences.
Another resolution called for a “site-specific” approach in dealing with waste water disposal.
For example, if a property with a sewage ejector has the right soil type and location (not next to a riparian zone, for example), no change should be necessary, said Wishart.
Manitoba’s rural municipalities are also upset by the OWMS change. The recent Associat ion of Mani toba Municipalities annual convention passed a resolution demanding the new regulation apply only on a case-by-case basis in high-risk areas where genuine environmental concerns exist. [email protected]