Province approves region's sewage plan

$782-million project will see one treatment plant built at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt

By Kim Westad
Vancouver Sun/Times Colonist
August 25, 2010 1:03 PM

The provincial Environment Ministry approved the region’s sewage-treatment plan Wednesday, but some mayors opposing the single treatment facility in Esquimalt still hope it can be moved.

Environment Minister Barry Penner said the McLoughlin Point site, the only one put forward by the Capital Regional District, meets the environmental criteria of the ministry, which mandated that secondary sewage treatment be in place by 2016.

“Our primary concern all along has been to get sewage treatment in place. I don’t believe it’s acceptable anymore to discharge 40 billion litres of raw sewage per year into the Strait of Juan de Fuca,” Penner said.

Currently, the region’s sewage goes through six-millimetre screens before it flows into the ocean.

The capital cost of the McLoughlin Point site is estimated at $782 million, with $14.5 million a year in operating costs. Funding is to be shared by the CRD and provincial and federal governments.

Over the last four years, the often fractious sewage committee — made up of politicians from throughout the core region — has considered 112 sites and spent $13 million developing the sewage-treatment plan.

It recommended that McLoughlin Point, a former oil tank farm, be a liquids-only treatment facility. The remaining sludge would be piped to a biosolids digestion facility at Hartland landfill or another, closer industrial location.

The CRD plans to look for an alternate site to Hartland in Saanich, because piping the 18 kilometres would cost $65 million, an amount that could be cut in half if a closer site were found.

Underground storage tanks will be built in Saanich instead of a second treatment plant, as was being considered until days before the plan was handed over to the provincial government. A West Shore treatment plant will be deferred until at least 2030.

But Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins argued again Wednesday that waterfront land at McLoughlin Point is not the best spot for secondary sewage treatment, saying alternate sites in Colwood have not been fully explored.

“This is an example of doing the wrong thing in the wrong place,” Desjardins said, standing on the waterfront Victoria View Road land with its views of the Victoria harbour. “What’s downwind? The highest residential areas like James Bay and the Songhees. They will get any odours.”

If there’s a spill, the sewage will go into the harbour, Desjardins said. “The entrance to the harbour is one of the jewels of what we are about as a capital city. We should not be considering putting a sewage treatment plant here if there are other options that have better value to them.”

Colwood Mayor Dave Saunders said there are several potential sites on municipally owned land that could be home to the sewage-treatment facility.

The CRD said earlier that if another site can be found during the procurement process that meets all the district’s criteria, it could be considered, Saunders said. “I’m going to hold the CRD’s feet to the fire with respect to those comments.”

Sewage committee chairwoman Judy Brownoff said the CRD will look at an alternative to McLoughlin if it works environmentally, socially and economically, is zoned appropriately, has been approved by the local municipality and has been the subject of public consultation.

But she cautioned that it has taken four years to come up with the McLoughlin Point site. “It wasn’t just, ‘Oh well, it has the criteria.’ It was a very difficult process.”