Not many residents can say they have $15,000 to $20,000 lying around. But some residents in Langford say that’s the amount they’ll have to cough up to pay for new sewage hookups over the next year.
“It was a pretty darn big shock,” said Jan Thomas, who has lived on Linda Lane with her daughter Terisa since 2008.
Jan’s home and the five others on Linda Lane run off their own individual septic tanks — and have done so for years. But in 2008, the City of Langford amended its sewage bylaw, making it mandatory for residents to connect to a new or existing sewer.
The bylaw especially targetted homes in environmentally sensitive areas, and made the connection mandatory by the end of 2019.
Jan added while they did receive a notification in their property taxes, there was no information about the cost. Earlier this year, Jan said construction began on a new sewage line down Linda Lane, and was recently completed. While she understood her home would one day have to be connected to the line, Jan didn’t realize how much it was cost.
It was only after several emails between West Shore Environmental Services Inc., which operates and maintains the City of Langford’s existing sewers plus any extensions of the sewage collection system, as well as handling all customer inquiries, and other parties, that Jan was able to piece together an estimate.
A number of one-time fees, outlined in the City’s sewage bylaw, include a sewer connection fee of $1,500 per inch of service pipe diameter, a sewer capital recovery fee of more than $9,994 – a fee that is scheduled to go up by 2019 – and storage fee of $495.
There is also a $226 sewer utility fee and a $25 account set up fee. Residents must also decommission their septic tanks, which costs roughly $2,000, Jan said. In total, they expect a bill of anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000.
Terisa said many of their neighbours cannot afford the hefty bill.
“No one had any idea there would be such a big fee,” she said, noting no one on Linda Lane has connected to the new sewage line yet. “To this day, we haven’t received any notification on what the fees are. It’s only because we’ve inquired that we have an idea … it’s a lot of money without any time to prepare.”
But relief could be coming for some residents.
Langford Mayor Stew Young said the City is in the process of coming up with financing options, including allowing residents to go to a partner bank and get a loan with a set financial rate or roll the price of the hookup into property taxes – options which are expected to come into effect on Dec. 31.
“[Sewage] was needed for the health and economic well-being of the community,” he said, adding roughly 93 per cent of residents have voluntarily hooked up to nearby sewer lines.
The City is also working with West Shore Environmental to come up with a complete package fee (including the cost of the hook up and decommissioning the septic tanks) and will send out a friendly reminder about the options available. In addition, residents facing financial or medical hardships may be vetted through a committee, and if they deem it’s a hardship, then they will defer the hookup.
The province’s incoming speculation tax could also impact when residents hook up. Young said that if the tax devalues homes and causes an economic downturn, he won’t force residents to connect to sewage during that time.
“If this speculation tax brings down home values in Langford, I’m going to be looking at the whole program about forcing hookups,” he said. “If housing values go down, I will absolutely not force a hardship on anybody.”