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Alternative waste plan promoted for Greater Victoria

A proposal to address Greater Victoria's solid and liquid waste could save taxpayers $100 million and probably more, says a spokesman for the Sewage Treatment Action Group.

Richard Atwell outlined the group's $650-million proposal in a presentation yesterday and asked the Capital Regional District to consider it. The idea suggests building one waste-to-energy gasification facility to handle all solid and liquid waste, as well as a complete rebuild of the 15 existing sewage pumping stations, a small number of which are operated by the CRD.

The CRD is proposing to spend $782 million for separate waste-to-energy and secondary sewage treatment plants.

"People are looking for a better alternative," Atwell said.

The single tertiary plant would allow Victoria to meet future regulations on liquid waste emissions, he said, whereas the CRD's secondary treatment plant, only meets current provincial and federal regulations.

Among the details of the proposal, liquid waste would be filtered using ultrafiltration before being pumped into the waste-to-energy plant. High-tech filter cartridges would be installed at the existing pumping stations located around the region.

The filtered effluent would then be safely released into the water, Atwell said, even in highly sensitive and fragile ecosystems. He noted that secondary treatment does not remove micro-organisms or pharmaceutical contamination from the wastewater.

"If we had to build 15 new buildings at $20 million each – I'm erring on the high side as the Craigflower facility cost $11 million to build – that's $300 million," Atwell said. "Compare that to $350 million for the CRD for a secondary treatment plant."

If some or all existing pump station buildings could be retrofitted, the cost could go down by 80 to 90 per cent for each building that does not have to be rebuilt, he said.

CRD liquid waste management committee member and Saanich councillor, Judy Brownoff, pointed out that gasification of biosolids is an as yet unproven technology.

"We've always said from day 1 that we want innovation, but it has to be proven," she said.

She also questioned the lack of detail behind Atwell's $650-million price tag. "It gives people the concept that we haven't done the numbers right. I'd like them to show us the financial plan."

Brownoff noted further that filtering sewage at pump stations around the region would mean waste sludge would have to be trucked from those sites to another processing facility, thus creating more greenhouse gases.

In his presentation, Atwell cited Dockside Green as a mixed residential and commercial development that uses ultrafiltration. "There is a restaurant right on top of the sewage treatment plant. It's odour free."

The Dockside Green treatment plant was costly, he admitted, but that was because the previously contaminated site did not have existing infrastructure in place.

Oak Bay-Gordon Head Green MLA Andrew Weaver said the STAG proposal had merit.

"The idea and concept is something the CRD should look at," he said. "It's innovative. It integrates solid and liquid waste management, which is the way of the future."

Weaver said the CRD should take a step back and change its goal to have something in place by 2018, which is two years after the provincial government's deadline to stop dumping sewage into the water. He said he has spoken to various provincial ministers and they are willing to push the deadline to 2020, as long as the CRD has a plan in place.

"Tertiary is what we need to do," Weaver added, saying the CRD needs to consider alternatives. "The reality is, the province would love it if the CRD can say, 'we can do it by 2020.'"

More details on STAG's proposal can be found at www.theriteplan.ca

reporter@vicnews.com

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