Region made bad sewage-plant choice, Esquimalt mayor says

Cindy E. Harnett
Times Colonist
July 09, 2010

Esquimalt’s mayor says McLoughlin Point is the wrong place for a centralized sewage plant, and she’s demanding that B.C.’s environment minister reject the plan or live with the outfall.

“We’re making the wrong decision and environmentally it will end up being detrimental, so we need to quickly make a change,” said Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins.

Esquimalt council voted unanimously against the liquid waste management plan Wednesday night.

On June 23, the Capital Regional District board, scrambling to make a June 30 deadline for provincial and federal funding, approved McLoughlin Point as the site for the region’s only treatment plant.

The decision was such a departure from earlier plans for up to 11 small treatment plants that even those in favour of the McLoughlin site called the turnaround bizarre.

The CRD has been ordered by the provincial government to have secondary sewage treatment in place by 2016. Currently, sewage passes through a six-millimetre screen before it flows into the ocean.

The new site was approved by the majority of the CRD, but the province has the final say.

Desjardins said the new Area Liquid Waste Management Plan doesn’t fulfil the environment minister’s mandate that the CRD use new technology in terms of beneficial reuse of resources and generating offsetting revenue.

“There may be a need for [Environment Minister Barry Penner] to reiterate that to the CRD,” Desjardins said. “Politically, for all of us, if we go down this route ... I think it will be extremely detrimental and we will answer to it in a very bad way as we go forward.”

Penner was unavailable for a phone interview yesterday. “The minister has not reviewed it at this point,” said Suntanu Dalal, an Environment Ministry spokesman, in an e-mail.

Desjardins said the CRD “made a bad decision” because of a deadline and fears federal funds would dry up if a timely decision wasn’t made. The first time the CRD put forward a plan for centralized liquid waste management, Penner sent it back, instructing the CRD to look at new technologies to maximize waste streams and create energy and revenue.

Esquimalt council will hold a public forum July 19 at Esquimalt city hall to talk with residents about the CRD site plan that was discussed behind closed doors. The mayor plans to meet with Penner within the next few weeks and has a meeting scheduled with Ben Stewart, minister of community and rural development, on July 16.