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Mayor mulls ‘made-in-Victoria’ option for sewage

As Capital Regional District directors debate a feasible way forward with sewage treatment, Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin said city staff will begin exploring the possibility of a made-in-Victoria model.

The CRD board agreed to explore four concurrent options to salvage the $788-million Seaterra program at a meeting last week. One of those options is asking municipalities and local First Nations if they’re willing to offer land for a regional wastewater treatment facility. The CRD will also spend $250,000 to analyze the cost and benefits of a distributed treatment model.

“In Victoria, we’re going to get some options about how we do this locally,” said Mayor Dean Fortin. “When I go and talk to the residents of Victoria, I clearly hear them say we need to stop putting our untreated sewage directly into the ocean. And we’ve been ordered by the federal government to do it.”

The CRD is scrambling to comply with federal and provincial regulations that require secondary wastewater treatment by 2020. Should it fail to meet those deadlines, about $500 million in funding contributions from higher levels of government is at risk.

CRD directors are also spurred on by the threat of personal liability for failure to comply with the regulations.

Fortin said city manager Jason Johnson will gather information and report back to council on the possibility of building one or more local treatment facilities.

The regional project, which included a wastewater facility at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt and biosolids plant at Hartland landfill in Saanich, was put on hold after Esquimalt turned down a rezoning request for the wastewater plant in April.

Another option put forward by the CRD board will test Esquimalt’s resolve by offering to cover the municipality’s capital costs for the wastewater treatment plant, in the hope its council will favour cost savings over public opposition.“Everything I’m hearing from our community is it’s not about the money,” said Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins.

“We think we can gather some information fairly quickly to help us with a distributed model discussion. There’s a lot of balls in the air right now.”

A biosolids plant is still slated for Hartland landfill with construction set to begin in early 2015. That process involves a series of pumping stations and underground pipes between Hartland, the wastewater facility and marine outfalls.

A successful construction bid for the wastewater facility at McLoughlin Point is only valid until July 26.

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