Wading into the debate on city drainage

Photo Credit : Geoff Rempel

Photo Credit : Geoff Rempel

While municipal drainage may not seem like an appealing topic of conversation, it is an important one. 

It is easy to go about the day without the thought of drainage crossing our minds, but proper drainage operations are a vital part to our quality of life. And it’s an important issue now being discussed by City Council.

Currently, the City of Edmonton's Drainage Utility operates:

  • nearly 6,000 km of sanitary, storm, and combined drainage pipes
  • 240 stormwater management facilities
  • 85 pump stations 
Source 

In June 2016, EPCOR Utilities submitted a new request to take over operation of Edmonton's drainage services. Currently, EPCOR handles water delivery, treatment and the Gold Bar Wastewater Treatment Plant. EPCOR's offer includes EPCOR taking over the city's drainage-related debt ($447 million) and increasing annual dividends to the City to $20 million. 

The process of EPCOR gaining drainage operations has been incorrectly referred to as 'privatization' of Edmonton's drainage. EPCOR Utilities was created in 1996, and is wholly owned by the City of Edmonton. If EPCOR were to take over drainage assets and operations, the City of Edmonton would be transferring assets to a corporation owned by the city — a process called corporatization. City Council would remain the sole shareholder in EPCOR. 

By request of City Council, an independent consultant performed an evaluation of the proposal and presented at a public hearing on January 24, 2017. The hearing resulted in a request to EPCOR to work with the City Manager to develop a Letter of Intent for the next public hearing on Tuesday, April 11.

The Letter of Intent must include information addressing questions such as:

·       What is the value for taxpayers and ratepayers?

·       Are the public's interests a top priority?

·       Will EPCOR be able to maintain their existing operations?

·       Will the City's commitment to flood mitigation be maintained by EPCOR? 

The Council Meeting on April 11 should provide answers to these questions. The results of this meeting could have significant implications for all Edmontonians. If you are concerned about this issue, it is important to attend in order to learn more about this potential change in service delivery.

What are your thoughts on EPCOR’s proposal? Let us know!

Related Links:

·       2017 City Council and Public Hearings Schedule

·       EPCOR Drainage Transfer Proposal

·       Jan. 19 news article on EPCOR’s proposal (CBC Edmonton)