Stop Pouring Infrastructure Money Down the Drain

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Almost every time it rains, the City of London, Ontario dumps raw sewage into the Thames River.

Which means human waste flows into the Great Lakes, from where Londoners and many other Ontario residents get their drinking water.

City Staff have known for years that London’s decrepit, aging sewers aren’t able to handle the load. In fact, any rainfall above a measly 4mm overflows the system, forcing untreated sewage into the Thames.

Think about that. A prosperous city in an economically advanced country like Canada dumps raw sewage into its own drinking water–in 2013!

It’s now so bad that London has become the second worst polluter among Ontario’s 12 largest municipalities, according to a recent environmental report.

Councillor Bud Polhill says there isn’t enough money to fix the problem.

He’s right, if those now managing city infrastructure projects aren’t finally held to account. For too long, they’ve avoided explaining how our city’s sewer system remains so bad, despite the tens of millions in water and sewer taxes collected each year.

For the City of London, the norm seems to be poorly managed, hopelessly over-budget infrastructure projects.

For example, the London Free Press reported on major construction problems with the City’s new southeast reservoir. Construction is now two years behind schedule and there’s no word when the reservoir will finally be operational. With $57 Million spent on the project to date, the City has blown its original budget by $20 Million. And it may cost as much as $50 million more to finally get it working.

This sounds all too familiar. Springbank Dam, another major City project, has been inoperable since 2008 because of construction problems. It’s going on 6 years with no explanation for the delays or estimate on completion.

City Hall and the Ministry of the Environment have known since 2007 of over 200 problem connections in the downtown sewer system alone where untreated sewage spills into the Thames River whenever rain falls or snow melts.

London taxpayers will pay $140 million this year for water and sewage treatment. Over the coming decade, City Hall plans to spend at least $2 billion. Add to this total the planned $100 million to expand the Greenway Sewage Plant in the next few years.

Can we trust City Hall to spend these dollars wisely? Is anyone checking to make sure they do?

And with the City’s Engineering Department consistently unable to avoid significant cost over-runs,  can we really feel confident that needed improvements will be made, let alone efficiently and effectively?

With hundreds of millions of dollars spent, projects over budget, construction problems and lawsuits, Londoners are paying more because of the City’s mismanagement.

It’s time to demand that those entrusted to maintain and improve our infrastructure–and to safeguard our drinking water–be held to account for their incompetence.

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