Election 2014: At Issue — Piping up on sewage in Colwood

The Gazette talks to community members about issues important to them this election

For another election, Colwood residents head to the polls with sewage on their minds.

Questions surrounding the potential for a new sewage management facility continue to flow through the minds of residents with the Nov. 15 municipal election drawing closer. Just like it had been the election before and the one before that, sewage is front and centre and voters are piping up.

“If more people were to go on sewage and if the cost was spread out into the future, maybe it would be viable economically for the average person in Colwood. Right now I don’t think it is,” said 23-year Colwood resident Laurie McGuire. “It is too expensive and I don’t think it is necessary, simple as that.”

McGuire’s concerns stem from costs and how they would be taxed to the residents of Colwood, who would pay for it, especially considering such a small percentage – approximately 25 per cent – are currently hooked up to the sewer system. How long the cost would be spread out for is also a concern for McGuire, especially considering she just installed a new septic tank to replace her old one and doesn’t see herself switching to sewer anytime soon.

“The reason we chose to redo the septic instead of hooking up to sewer was because it was about half the cost – basic economics,” she said.

“I think I would be angry over (a tax increase to pay for a new sewage facility) considering what we just went through putting in a new septic system.”

Walking her two children home after school, Colwood homeowner Laura Deweerd said she could support a new sewage management system for the city, but would like to know more about any potential facilities and why they are needed before she makes her own decision.

“I would like to see some scientific information. The assumption would be ‘yes’ (we need one), but I’m not sure that is a valid assumption, because I have heard opposing views,” she said.

“Even from an environmental perspective, there are options with that and with the vast amount of money it would take, (what) would be more effective to help the environment? In my opinion, I would just need a bit more information and data to back it up and make an informed decision.”

With Colwood joining Langford, the Songhees Nation, Esquimalt and View Royal to form a westside subcommittee to discuss a new framework for evaluating treatment options with Capital Regional District staff, even more questions have arisen for Colwood voters.

After looking at options where the muni-cipality could potentially build a facility on its own, the new subcommittee may change the landscape. And with the election looming, any discussions won’t be resolved in time for voters to use that information to determine their vote.

“We bought a home with the convenience of being on sewer in mind, but that being said, we also know we have to be a little bit conscious of some of the upcoming issues because we wanted to have that convenience,” Deweerd said.

“It is our responsibility to get a bit more educated and find out what our options are moving forward.”

A Colwood resident for all of her 37 years, she plans to research where the current mayor and councillors stand before deciding who she will be voting for. Where sewer considerations factored into the decision on her home purchase, so they will when she casts her ballot.

Jack Smith, 74, has lived in the same home, on septic, more than 40 years. He simply isn’t interested in connecting to sewer if eligible, despite the added convenience, because of the cost involved – a huge factor given his age, he said. The potential for higher taxes to pay for a sewage management facility is also a concern, despite his belief that such a facility is a necessity.

“There should be some sort of sewage management. I think we are overdue to have sewage in Colwood and it’s building up pretty big,” he said.

For more information on Colwood’s sewer plans, visit colwood.ca/city-services/engineering/sewer-services.

alim@goldstreamgazette.com