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New way to pay water bills in Cape Breton


The way people are billed for water in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) changed Monday.

CBRM has switched to a system based entirely on customer usage, rather than the previous way when water bills were determined largely by property tax billing.

Wally Doue of Sydney says with five people living in his middle-class home, he expects he will soon pay more to turn on the tap.

"I think it's actually stupid,” Doue said of the new billing system. "They want to increase our water bill, and this is the only way that they increase it.”

"People will see two changes,” explained Christina Lamey with CBRM communications. “They'll see a change on their tax bill that will see the removal of the sewer charge, which was based on 19 cents per $100 of assessments."

People will also see a brand new charge for water and wastewater.

Lamey said while most municipalities already do it this way, she admitted the new system comes with pros and cons.

"For the average person, what you might save on your tax bill you might gain again back on your water bill,” Lamey said.

Councillor Eldon MacDonald - who voted for the new billing system - said by conserving water, people should have more control over what they pay, noting water bills may have gone up across the board had things been left unchanged.

"I believe the new system will be fair and I believe the new system will actually help lower-income homeowners,” MacDonald said. "With the new (wastewater) infrastructure coming online, we would probably be looking at having that rate increased to around 25 cents per $100 of assessment."

Part of the reason the change is happening in the first place is CBRM's switch to a brand new wastewater treatment system in order to meet federal regulations.

"Somebody has to pay for it, so we have to," Doue said.

The new billing process for the usage-based system started April 1, in accordance with the new fiscal year.

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