Harbour Grace faces hard choice to fix sewer problem

By Craig Westcott/October 21, 2021

The new council in Harbour Grace is moving quickly to shift around funds in its capital works projects to free up money to tackle a major wastewater diversion project so it can meet federal guidelines.

But if the transfer of funds is approved by the province, it will mean a delay in work to fix the long running problems at Mercer’s Well, which provides over 20 homes in Riverhead with their water supply.

Capital and public works committee chairman Gordon Stone made the motion to divert the money.

Stone explained that some 40 per cent of Harbour’s Grace’s sewerage enters the ocean near the Fishermen’s Wharf, and the federal government has ordered the Town to move the outflow.

Stone said the Town has identified a new route for the line, and asked the provincial Department of Transportation and Infrastructure for guidance about shifting around the money it has been allocated for other public works projects so it can tackle the job.

The councillor then read from correspondence the Town received in answer.

“’If the Town requests funding for the outfall for the LeMarchant Street project, $2,175,409 be taken from the Harvey Street/Mercer’s Well project, for which there is $3,326,400 in available funding, there would still be $1,150,991 available for phase 1 of the Mercer’s Well project,’” Stone read, quoting an unnamed official in the department. “’And if the Town requests funding from the Outfall LeMarchant Street project be taken from the Cochrane/Bannerman Street project, for which there is $1,543,591 in available funding, the Town would be left to find (an additional) $631,818.’”

Given that advice, Stone’s committee recommended that Harbour Grace divert $2.175 million from the Mercer’s Well project to the outfall project.

The motion was seconded by councilor Brendan Chafe.

“This is imperative,” said Mayor Don Coombs. “As councillor Stone said at the beginning, this is imperative.”

Coombs pointed out that some $35 million worth of crab is landed at the Fishermen’s Wharf annually and that 38-40 jobs depend on it.

The motion to shift the money, a move that will still have to be approved by the province,

passed unanimously, but not without councilor Lee Rogers offering an assurance to the residents who are dependent on Mercer’s Well, who have seen disruptions to their service numerous times over the years.

“I just want to let the people know, who are serviced on Mercer’s Well, we’re not giving up on this project,” Rogers said. “We’re just diverting funds to the wharf project and to LeMarchant Street and we will move again next year to get the other funds for that project.”

Mayor Coombs supported that contention. “You are correct, councillor Rogers,” said Coombs. “It’s just a deferment, that’s what it is.”

Coombs added that if the province doesn’t go along with the town’s application to shift the money, Harbour Grace will have to come up with two to three million dollars on its own to move the sewerage outfall.

“This was a way to get around it,” he said. 

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