With lined paper and pencils at the ready, almost 100 people attended a community-driven forum on the Greater Victoria sewage system.
“This was really good,” said Esquimalt resident Muriel Dunn, who expressed concern about who was in attendance Thursday night at the S.J. Willis educational centre.
“I thought there would have been more Esquimalt residents because of McLaughlin Point being such an important issue.” The Esquimalt site has been selected by the Capital Regional District to host a liquid waste treatment facility.
During a question-and-answer session, more than a dozen people lined up at the microphone, hungering for more information. But others others questioned the forum’s bias.
“I feel this is heavy-handed. It’s totalitarian,” said one man. “Where’s the pro-sewage (treatment facility) side?” Organizers explained that CRD representatives were invited to give a presentation, but declined.
Seven scientists, academics, health officials such as Dr. Richard Stanwick, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Island Health Authority, and members of the Association for Responsible and Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment, discussed a cost-benefit analysis of the estimated $720-million sewage facility, as well as environmental and health-risk comparisons of the two systems – under the marine-based sewage system, effluent is screened and piped out two outfalls and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
“The comments from the professionals really caused you to step back and go, ‘what are we doing?’” said Esquimalt resident David Hodgins, who was struck most by concern panelists have for storm water runoff impacts on the sea rather than sewage.
“If I thought (the proposed facilities) would fix the problem, I wouldn’t hesitate to pay for that,” he said.
In an effort to promote the forum as a grassroots effort, about 30 residents’ associations were asked to endorse the event.
Through these groups, the meeting was advertised to about 4,000 residents in Victoria, Esquimalt, Saanich, Oak Bay, View Royal and Colwood.
More information is available at www.smartsewage.webs.com.