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Cobden, Ont. residents drowning under rising water bills

Residents and businesses in Cobden, Ont. say they are struggling to stay afloat amid soaring rates on their water and wastewater bills.

“We’re paying double what most people are paying in Ontario,” says Cobden resident Anne Guest, who tells CTV News Ottawa the rates are only set to get worse.

“[The rates have] increased 60 per cent in 2022. And they are going to increase by five per cent every year until 2029 for a total of over $4,000 a year.”

Local businesses are also being hit by astonishingly high rates.

Fraser-Morris & Heubner Funeral Home owner Wayne Heubner says his business is being charged exorbitant rates despite very limited water and sewer use at his funeral home.

“Currently, I pay $1,154.71 every other month, or $500 a month here for water and sewer,” says Heubner, who is enter his 45th year in business.

“Not as many people are using our facilities here as they were in the past, and but we have to pay anyway. Whether they use the building or not.”

Guest says the reason behind the high rates is because of renovations done to Cobden’s wastewater treatment plant, which Guest alleges was grossly under budgeted.

“[The estimate was] about $9,800,000 and the actual cost ended up being over $13 million,” she says.

Guest says the more than $3 million shortfall is now having to be spread over Cobden’s 497 homeowners, and not shared across the entire Whitewater Region Township.

In a statement, the township said, “Local water and wastewater rates reflect the ongoing operation, maintenance, and lifecycle costs of the systems and are paid exclusively by users of each system… The Cobden Wastewater Treatment Plant has recently undergone a significant expansion to improve effluent quality and increasing treatment capacity to better service our community.”

“I would ask you to show me a small town like Cobden that pays as high as we do,” questioned Heubner.

Guest is spearheading a community movement in Cobden to lower the rates. She has started a petition to work towards finding a financial solution to the situation—a petition she says half the town has already signed.

“We’d like to see an audit done on what happened,” she said.

Guest is set to speak before Whitewater Township Council on the matter Sept. 5.

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