Treatment options clean and green for City of Colwood

Proposed system would save city money over the Capital Regional District plan

An artists rendition shows what the potential new site for the Colwood wastewater treatment plant could look like after development. The plant would be constructed underneath the building on the site of the Juan de Fuca park and ride

Carol Hamilton is excited.

Fresh off a site visit to a new sewage treatment facility being built in Sechelt, and a meeting with Minister of Environment  Mary Polak, the Colwood mayor said she is not only more excited, but more informed about the possibilities of a new tertiary sewage treatment facility in Colwood.

“We toured the plant still under construction and got into areas that you couldn’t (normally) see. It was a great opportunity,” Hamilton said. “It is noiseless, odourless and environmentally the right thing to do.”

The $25-million facility being built for 14,000 sewer users in the coastal town of Sechelt has already provided valuable information to Colwood staff and council about the possibilities for the approximately 5,500 residential users, and roughly 2,200 industrial, commercial and institutional users currently served here. As city staff collect the information and prepare to speak to the public at a transportation and public infrastructure committee meeting July 7, Hamilton said Colwood is in a good position to pave its own way to sewage treatment.

“It is a unique situation to be in, because not often do you get to start from scratch,” she said. “That is the disappointing part of the CRD direction. They weren’t taking advantage of opportunities to look at a creative venture for the future that would meet our (current) needs and expand into what is yet to come.”

Colwood’s city engineer, Michael Baxter, said a potential tertiary treatment centre may cost less than $25 million, if they decide to go with an even smaller facility than Sechelt. It would also be more environmentally sound than the CRD option, he said, and help create revenue with potable water generated by the new plant. Colwood’s portion of the CRD plan was going to be $36 million, minus the provincial and federal grants that would cover two-thirds of the cost.

With the same grants available for the localized tertiary option, the price could come in well under the $20-million mark and be both more environmentally and financially friendly, Baxter said.

“I think it is a great idea. The thing is, you have to look at the cost today, but you have to look at future revenues. The plant should have at least a 50-year life and hopefully it is a longer life than that.”

“The money you can get from selling heat and water over 50 years is quite substantial.”

The potential location for the facility, an underground site under the park and ride in the heart of Colwood, would open up a built-in customer base for the heat and water with the West Shore Parks and Recreation centre and Colwood Golf Club nearby, he said. Both use plenty of heat during the winter and water for irrigation in the hot summer months.

“The best place to do heat recovery and water recovery is in a place where you can use someone who needs it and might buy it from you,” he said. “So a built-up location is best, and close by we have a lot of new developments and have the existing recreation facility, which has a need for heating and cooling. So there are opportunities there.”

The proposed site, unlike those outlined by the CRD, has not been a controversial choice, with 79 per cent approval given by residents at an open house. The process has also been buoyed by the fact an outside entity didn’t choose the site, Baxter said. It has been done by Colwood residents for Colwood residents, simplifying the process for everyone involved.

Hamilton agrees, adding that despite being in the Colwood core, it would be invisible to visitors. “We could have that plant in place to create an economic driver within that would allow us to have office space or some sort of building up and over top the sewage treatment. It would be virtually unseen,” she said, noting the park and ride would remain.

“We are going to continue to move forward, looking to have a conversation at the next (July 7) meeting. I would welcome not only our residents, but anyone, so they can hear and understand what is potentially possible out there.”

alim@vicnews.com

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