Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps is throwing her support behind an alternative plan for processing biosolids from the Capital Regional District’s sewage treatment process. The full board CRD board will vote Wednesday (Jan. 10) afternoon on whatever recommendation on the matter comes from the environmental services committee, which meets in the morning. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

CRD staff, Victoria mayor call for shift in direction on sewage sludge processing

Shelving of well-researched integrated resource management plan could save millions

The Capital Regional District’s actions toward reducing solid waste, and the potential to save millions of dollars by producing a more usable dried material from the processing of sewage sludge, are among the reasons driving a move to shelf integrated resource management (IRM).

A proposal is being considered this morning (Jan. 10) by the CRD’s environmental services committee that would end the current IRM procurement process – one that since 2016 has been investigating options for the processing of biosolids, solid waste and kitchen scraps together in one facility at Hartland in Saanich.

The staff recommendation, one supported by Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, calls for the CRD to issue a request for proposals for the beneficial reuse of the dried sludge alone, and investigate the creation of a separate kitchen scraps and organic waste facility. The city’s kitchen scraps are currently shipped to Delta at a cost of $114 a tonne.

Helps said one of the things that turned the tide for her in recent weeks was the fact the preferred proponent for the region’s residuals treatment facility came in with an “under-budget proposal” that produced dry biosolids, a more marketable product than “wet Class A biosolids,” which cannot be placed on land by CRD bylaw.

“We just learned that in early December that our preferred proponent gave us more for less,” she said. “That dry material has a market. It might be that we need to pay to get it taken away, but we don’t know that yet.”

Case study research by HDR Consulting into the options for processing biosolids, raw sludge, organics and solid waste together found no other facilities that were doing so. The uncertainty around the technology, and the need for guaranteed amounts of solid and other waste under IRM to make such a system cost-effective, gave pause to committee chair Judy Brownoff.

“What the concern is around the bigger picture of resource management, is that we don’t have a guaranteed feedstock – no matter what the [processing] technology is, whether it is gasification or whatever,” she said. “The feedstock [for IRM] is solid waste, compost and biosolids. And if we are really going by what we believe in the region, we want to get to zero waste.”

Helps agreed, saying now of IRM, “I think it’s a step in the exact wrong direction for fiscal reasons.”

She expects Wednesday’s discussion to be contentious, as there are still committee and CRD directors – the full board will vote on the committee’s recommendations in the afternoon – who are “tied very much to IRM.”

She also said they are practical, thoughtful people who she believes, once shown where the savings can be made, will choose to pursue a more cost-effective, environmentally sustainable option for processing the region’s waste stream.

“I think this is probably one of the most important, quiet decisions the CRD board will make in this term.”

– with files from Wolfgang Depner

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