The uproar in Esquimalt the past week may well have been heard across the Juan de Fuca Strait, where pro-sewage treatment advocates are watching every move we make on the project.
News that the Capital Regional District is considering a site in the Esquimalt industrial park for a planned biosolids processing facility, to go with the main treatment plant on the Esquimalt waterfront, left residents and nearby property owners feeling they had been crapped on yet again.
CRD core area liquid waste management committee chair Denise Blackwell’s comments that a biosolids plant on Viewfield Road would save between $6 million and $7 million annually in operating costs over a plant built at Hartland were telling. Regardless if the $17-million land purchase was speculative, the decision shows which way the committee is leaning.
That a consultation process is being planned to help the CRD choose between the two sites is small consolation to the property owners in the Viewfield neighbourhood, which touches on Esquimalt and Victoria.
Given its siting, the McLoughlin Point treatment plant is likely to have less of a deleterious effect on property values than a biosolids plant on Viewfield, even if the smell and noise are well contained.
Both residential and industrial values are bound to drop as a result of last week’s news, in the short term at least. Whether the CRD ultimately chooses to locate the biosolids plant there or not, the damage may already be done.
Could all this have been avoided? Hard to say. Municipal land dealings are always done behind closed doors as a matter of course. And the biosolids plant, which may well have a smaller environmental footprint than the existing trucking warehouse on Viewfield, has to be built somewhere.
The CRD, duty-bound to spend taxpayers’ money wisely, no doubt felt compelled to snap up a property it believed could be an ideal site, especially when it could save millions.
But it better be ready for further outcry, and potential legal action, as the shit really has hit the fan in Esquimalt for a second time.