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Editorial: Ballooning sewage plant costs are Metro's mess to clean up

The North Shore had no say or oversight in how the project went off the rails. It’s Metro’s board that is ultimately responsible.
Rows of rebar in front of sludge disgester tower during work on the massive new sewage treatment plant in North Vancouver in March 2021. | Paul McGrath / North Shore News

News about sewage tends not to be sexy, but when nearly $3 billion in cost overruns are involved, the potential tax bill has a way of getting our attention. Such is the case with current debates about who should pay for ballooning costs of the North Shore sewage treatment plant.

By default, most of that extra cost will likely fall to the North Shore – resulting in a bill of more than $1,000 annually, just to flush the toilet, which we would argue is profoundly unfair.

The entire reason we have a regional government is because previous leaders saw wisdom in supplying and paying for infrastructure as a group. There are economies of scale when you build five or six treatment plants and not 21. The physical geography of our region also means it only makes sense to build infrastructure in certain places.

We don’t ask Richmond and Vancouver to supply themselves with water. That comes from the North Shore watershed.

The ballooning costs of the North Shore sewage plant have nothing to do with North Shore decisions. For the past decade, this has been Metro’s project, and it is Metro’s staff and board who are ultimately responsible for it.

And if and when the wheels fall off another Metro Vancouver megaproject elsewhere, North Shore residents should be expected to chip in.

Of course, it would be easier for us how to decide how to share the increased costs if Metro was forthcoming in how they came about in the first place.

In the meantime, this is Metro’s mess to clean up.