High enviro standards, low cost, residents’ sewage plan priorities

Data from online survey is available on the Westside Solutions website

The people overseeing plans for sewage treatment on the west side of the Capital Region aren’t interested in reinventing the wheel, according to Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton.

The co-chair of the Capital Regional District’s Westside Solutions select committee said the process of taking a fresh look at how to achieve the government-mandated treatment of the region’s sewage is drawing on experience gained to date tackling the issue.

As well, she said, it takes into account information gleaned by Colwood in its efforts to create a treatment facility to hook the growing municipality into a larger system, create more capacity for its residents and possibly partner with neighbouring jurisdictions such as Langford.

“We’re still doing kind of both,” Hamilton said of the parallel work by the CRD and her city on the project. “Anything we do for Colwood is usable in the Westside market as well. We’re not losing any sort of pace in the big scheme of things.”

That said, the process of finding a site to build on, and deciding on a technology that falls within a budget acceptable to the public, appears to be moving ahead faster than under the previous regime.

Hamilton said a request for technical information by Westside attracted 11 or 12 submissions. As well, the CRD is undertaking a “market sounding” for technology similar to what Colwood already did, and staff from all affected municipalities are working simultaneously to make sure the committee has everything it needs to move quickly on the issue.

“The Eastside (Saanich, Oak Bay, Victoria) is doubling up on their meetings (and) naming their advisory committee. The hope is we will come together in about June and be identifying … what are the technologies out there and what sort of space would they have to take up … The next thing (after that) is, where do we have sites?”

Meanwhile, the results of an online survey gauging residents’ views on the focus and function of any new treatment system were released last week. The Westside Solutions select committee expects the survey results to help guide direction for sewage treatment in the area. Also part of the conversation will be verbal comments received at six open houses held this year in municipalities and First Nations that are part of the Westside plan.

Leading the priority list among three possible responses was “meet environmental standards,” which received more than 45 per cent of the first-place votes among survey respondents. Keeping the costs to taxpayers low was next highest, followed by building in the potential for resource recovery.

Hamilton, after thanking the 345 residents for taking part in the survey, said she wasn’t really surprised with the results, noting that unlike the first go-round with the sewage treatment process, the public is getting “a lot wiser around environmental issues.” As well, she added, cost has always been a concern.

“What’s going to be the interesting thing overall is what does that mean when it gets down to technologies,” she said. “Where are we for the next step?”

In a question asking what features of a treatment facility were most important, “no odour” topped the list of responses, followed closely by “minimize cost to taxpayers” and “removal of harmful materials.” Three different options for recycling the treated effluent, liquids and solids, were next on the list.

The full results are available online at crd.bc.ca/westside-solutions.

Enlisting the public’s help in moving forward on sewage treatment is an important aspect of the whole process, Hamilton said. She encouraged people to check out the survey results and the comments and draw their own conclusions as to what they feel is the best way forward.

Westside Solutions plans to further engage interested members of the public, via a series of roundtables and public information sessions over the coming weeks. Once determined, the schedule will be available at crd.bc.ca/westside-solutions.