She’s not surprised McLoughlin Point has wound up on the shortlist of options for a wastewater treatment facility in the capital region.
But until the core area wastewater treatment project board releases its final report in a few weeks, recommending the best site for a plant, Esquimalt Mayor and Capital Regional District board chair Barb Desjardins doesn’t want to prejudge the future of McLoughlin Point.
“The project board has been sifting through all of the information and this is what they brought forward to date. I think the important information is still to come,” she said. “The site is only one small part of what we’ve heard from the region.”
The core area wastewater treatment project board released its interim report last week that included a shortlist of options – a single plant at Rock Bay in Victoria, a single plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt, or a plant at both locations.
No West Shore plant was listed as an immediate option. In those presented, however, secondary treatment was looked at and biosolids would be conveyed to the Hartland landfill in Saanich. The estimated range of cost is pegged between $750 million and $1.1 billion.
Jane Bird, chair of the project board, said they established a methodology to consider and evaluate alternative options. Key themes of prior consultations were also considered, along with the extensive public commentary, when narrowing down the list of options.
Bird is well aware of the concerns that have been echoed in the past with a single plant at McLoughlin Point.
“Our job now is to say, ‘alright, let’s unpack what’s behind those concerns and think about whether we can be responsible to those concerns as part of our recommendation,’” she said. She noted that a more detailed cost analysis will be done on the shortlisted options, along with further review of the key themes against them.
“The difficulty with two sites is they tend to be more expensive, so that’s a bit of a challenge with a two-plant option … Certainly cost is really important, so it’s a big factor here. If there was a slight difference in cost, but the other benefits be they environmental or social, were greater, would we consider absorbing a little bit more in cost?”
Grant money important to big picture: Blackwell
When asked for her thoughts on last week’s sewage treatment plant shortlist announcement, Langford Coun. Denise Blackwell said, “It’s not much of a surprise.”
Blackwell, who also sits on the CRD’s core area liquid waste management committee, added, “It’s a little disappointing they’re not considering a site on the West Shore.”
There are a number of environmental factors that would have to be considered for a West Shore location, she noted, and time constraints may have limited those options even further. But Blackwell said those environmental considerations should have been looked at earlier in the process.
As for the potential for Langford and Colwood to have their own facility, an option currently being proposed by a group of private residents, Blackwell said Langford council has not yet seen the proposal nor had a presentation been scheduled by the end of last week.
“We’re concerned about losing the grant,” she added. “We want to work with the CRD to find the most cost effective option for Langford residents … That’s been Langford’s decision all along.”
Project has been contentious for years
The subject of sewage treatment has been a contentious one for more than 30 years in Greater Victoria, costing taxpayers millions of dollars in studies and consultation. Despite arguments made by local scientists, the federal government has deemed Victoria as high-risk when it comes to its current method of discharging screened sewage into the ocean. The classification means the region has to move towards secondary sewage treatment by 2020 in order to comply with federal wastewater regulations.
Two years ago, the region came close to constructing a facility at McLoughlin Point, but the Township rejected the plan, citing concerns with the size of the facility and the environmental impact.
In March, the CRD took another stab at the matter, voting to explore constructing two tertiary treatment facilities at Victoria’s Clover Point and McLoughlin or Macaulay points in Esquimalt, at an estimated cost of around $1 billion. The proposal, however, sparked backlash from both communities and needed approval from Victoria and Esquimalt council in order to proceed.
The province waded into the matter in May to help the region find a way to move forward and established an independent panel of six experts, including Bird, to come up with a business case to present to the CRD in mid-September. CRD directors will ultimately have the final say on where a facility should be located.
Desjardins said there are still significant concerns for a single site at McLoughlin Point, and whether one could ever work there is a discussion council has yet to have.
“We still have a few weeks to wait. They’ve got a lot of work to do and the next information is going to really give us a true sense of what can be different,” said Desjardins. “They really haven’t brought forward any new information. I want to wait and know the full understanding of what they’re coming to.”
The final report, including the recommended option, will be available publicly on Sept. 7 and presented to the CRD Sept. 14. The CRD has until the end of September to submit its plans for wastewater treatment to the federal government or risk losing tens of millions of dollars in funding.
– with files from Katherine Engqvist