EDITORIAL: Beware of info overload on sewage treatment discussion

This week's Innovation Days seems an unlikely place for the public to get the information they need

This week at Royal Roads University, representatives with Westside Solutions – the West Shore-Esquimalt-Songhees arm of the Capital Regional District’s sewage treatment task force – are listening to potential suppliers talk about options for liquid waste management and related functions.

Innovation Days has also been billed as a way for the public to get a sense of what types of technologies and ideas are out there for dealing with the Capital Region’s mandated sewage treatment order for upper levels of government.

There’s a bit of a disconnect here. While we applaud members of the public who have attended the various open houses and information sessions to try and get a handle on how their politicians are looking at handling this challenge, the vast majority don’t have the expertise to make judgment on the available options. As such, the most that those who will make the final decisions can count on is to gain – for the umpteenth time since this conversation began – an idea of what value-added elements the public feels are important in the creation of a treatment system.

The CRD already has files upon files of public input. It’s time for our politicians and the staff charged with working on this project to gather the technical information they need, put their heads down and crunch out a shortlist of proposals. Then present them to the public and ask what they think.

Fans of the consultation process, and those who insist that all the minute details need to be laid out along the way, may point out that the plan to build the main regional treatment facility at Macaulay Point in Esquimalt was essentially one municipal rezoning decision away from happening. We agree that was a blatant example of the CRD putting the cart before the horse.

But we also believe there’s a happy medium when it comes to public consultation. It’s nice to know the CRD is working to find a solution that people can live with, but don’t expect the public to provide valuable input on technical options.

At this stage of the game, it’s not as important to ask laypeople what they think as much as to consult with experts, as is happening this week. Most of us are not accountants, scientists or engineers. But tell us how much a certain option is going to cost us on our property taxes on an annual basis and we’ll be happy to give an opinion on that.

Let’s get closer to the point of offering real options before putting too much stock in what the public says through the information gathering process.

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