Vancouver Island town facing unprecedented fine for failure to deal with its wastewater

Cumberland moves to get legal advice and appeal penalties of more than $85,000

A Vancouver Island town is exploring uncharted territory for the province of British Columbia.

Unfortunately for the taxpayers of Cumberland, this is not the sort of trail you want to blaze.

The Province has fined the Village of Cumberland $85,800 for failing to address longstanding wastewater issues — believed to be the first fine of its type in provincial history.

On July 17, the Village received formal notification from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy of the fine connected with its failure to comply with five sections under the Environmental Management Act, particularly issues around “wet weather flows.”

Manager of operations Rob Crisfield explained that while other jurisdictions could be facing the same situation, Cumberland is the first in B.C. to face the penalties.

“They’re setting a precedent…. It’s uncharted territory in the public sector,” he said. “I just think we need help and guidance through this.”

The dispute is a longstanding one. The Village has been working since the late 1990s to deal with the issues through the development of a Liquid Waste Management Plan. The process was interrupted, but resumed again in 2016. In February 2018, the Village received its third notice and the threat of fines.

Financial officer Michelle Mason said a consultant recommended appealing the decision. 

“We definitely do not admit guilt,” she said. “We have been working towards our compliance for quite some time, and we have been working with the ministry on solutions, so then we would not want to be then faced with ongoing penalty charges for every future incident of peak wet weather flows.”

Crisfield explained it still may take a number of years to get to “flow compliance,” adding that Cumberland has spent a lot working over the last 15 years to fix the in-flow filtration and sewer separation issue.

The Village decided to appeal the decision and seek legal advice.



mike.chouinard@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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