How Saskatoon and Regina’s method to steer service traces evaluate

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With the City of Saskatoon on track to replace all lead service connections (LSCs) by 2026, some are wondering why Regina can’t do the same.

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Jennifer Ackerman Kathy Donovan, a Cathedral residents with major concerns about the City of Regina's approach to lead service connections, points to a white scratch mark that she believes identifies her pipe to being made of lead on Wednesday, July 28, 2021 in Regina. Kathy Donovan, a Cathedral residents with major concerns about the City of Regina’s approach to lead service connections, points to a white scratch mark that she believes identifies her pipe to being made of lead on Wednesday, July 28, 2021 in Regina. Photo by TROY FLEECE /Regina Leader-Post

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With the City of Saskatoon on track to replace all lead service connections (LSCs) by 2026, some are wondering why Regina can’t do the same.

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In May, Regina city council approved a 15-year, LSC replacement program ending in 2036. The plan cuts 15 years off the current replacement program, but is more than 10 years later than a 2025 goal council aspired to in 2019.

“The City of Saskatoon is changing their lead service connections at the same time as they’re changing their small diameter cast iron water mains,” said Kurtis Doney, director of waste, water and environment for the city during a May 25 council meeting. “That’s generally why the City of Saskatoon is able to do many more lead service connections.”

The City of Regina changed its cast iron water mains in the 1980s and early 1990s, and “unfortunately” at that time, LSCs were not replaced. That is the fundamental difference between Saskatoon and Regina’s approach to LSCs, noted Doney at the time.

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In a recent interview, City of Saskatoon’s director of technical services Dan Willems, said that city has integrated LSC replacement with more than just water main work. As Regina plans to do over the next 15 years, Saskatoon has also aligned the work with its roadway preservation program.

The push to accelerate Saskatoon’s program happened in 2016 when the city’s wait list of residents who were ready to go ahead with replacement got too long to handle. That year, council approved an accelerated program with a target completion date of 2026.

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“We’re just kind of running the playbook and working away at getting that work done over the next another five years here,” Willems said.

While Regina and Saskatoon are working on drastically different timelines to replace their respective LSCs, the support programs for homeowners to pay for replacements are very similar.

“We based the program support options in front of council, primarily on Saskatoon’s program,” Doney said in May.

Kurtis Doney, City of Regina director of water waste and environment, speaks to media regarding the composting project the city is running during a press conference at City Hall on Nov 18, 2020. Kurtis Doney, City of Regina director of water waste and environment, speaks to media regarding the composting project the city is running during a press conference at City Hall on Nov 18, 2020. Photo by BRANDON HARDER /Regina Leader-Post

In Regina, the city pays for the public LSC, while residents are responsible for the cost to replace privately-owned LSCs.

The city estimates the cost to replace a private connection to be between $5,000 and $10,000 depending on things like length and surface restoration.

In a recent interview, Doney said all residents will be able to finance the replacement over five years, interest-free, regardless of their income. An upfront fee of $240 will be required.

“Some residents will be eligible to spread the costs over 10 years depending on their annual income,” he added in a follow-up email.

There is no upfront fee for the 10-year financing plan, but residents must qualify for the city’s Affordable Access Program in order to access it. Information on eligibility can be found at Regina.ca.

In Saskatoon, the city pays for 60 per cent of the total cost of replacement, which includes the city-owned side and the private side.

Willems said resident’s typically pay around $3,500 for their 40 per cent share when the city replaces the city-owned LSC at the same time. If residents opt to have their line replaced on their own, it can range from $4,000 to $6,000.

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If residents get their line replaced before the city side, Willems said the city will reimburse them their 40 per cent share when the city does their side.

Currently, residents in both city’s must replace the private side when the public side is replaced, but there is no mandate for residents who only have a private LSC to replace it. Saskatoon city council will discuss the possibility of such a mandate this August. City of Regina administration has said it will revisit the issue when they are closer to replacing all the city-owned LSCs.

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