Sewage debate clogs CRD committee meeting in Victoria

Talk of alternate technologies still on the table with some committee members

Members of the Association for Responsible and Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment

Capital Regional District directors should pull the reigns on the proposed $782-million secondary sewage treatment project and look at emerging and alternative treatment technology.

That’s the appeal Saanich Coun. Vic Derman put forward at Wednesday’s CRD liquid waste management committee meeting.

Derman said new energy extraction methods in sewage treatment could make the current project a relic before it’s even completed.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins also expressed concern that directors are moving too hastily to implement the plan, which includes a wastewater treatment plant at McLoughlin Point and a biosolids energy centre in a yet-to-be-determined location.

Both the federal and provincial governments have pledged to contribute one-third of the $782 million price tag, but any cost overruns will fall on municipal shoulders.

“The further we go down these roads, the more we have adopted and accepted this plan, the less opportunity we have to revisit and re-look at things,” Desjardins said later in an interview.

At the meeting, Desjardins put forward a notice of motion that calls for a re-evaluation of how federal environmental standards apply to the Capital Region and a request for exemption from federal wastewater regulations.

She also hopes the CRD will re-engage “prominent scientists who are united in their opinion that we are not harming the environment and that we have the wrong plan.”

“Basically, it’s asking this committee to take a stand and turn the table around, to stop,” she said.

The committee also reviewed the first concrete cost-sharing formula between the seven municipalities involved in the project.

Councils are expected to pony up $37 million, collectively, each year for the project, but the formula will be reviewed by each municipality before being approved.

Oak Bay fares the worst, with an estimated $391 annual cost per household by 2017, while Victoria comes in at $353 per household.

Esquimalt would need to charge its residents another $311 per household in five years’ time.

CRD staff cautioned committee members that the estimates are preliminary and will depend on borrowing rates at the time of implementation.

Dr. Shaun Peck, the former CRD medical health officer and board member for ARESST (Association for Responsible and Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment), also presented his opposition to the project at Wednesday’s committee meeting.

“There’s still time to apply for an exemption to the federal wastewater regulations based on the unique marine receiving environment of Victoria,” Peck said.

dpalmer@vicnews.com