Colwood to ask sewage Project Board to postpone assessment

An environmental study surrounding a potential Colwood plant is deemed a waste for a facility that is decades away from construction.

In the end, Colwood council decided it simply didn’t make sense to conduct a $2-million environmental impact assessment for a project that might not come to fruition for 25 years or more.

On Monday council voted to request that the Core Area Wastewater Treatment Project Board postpone the assessment – which would determine the viability of discharging treated effluent into the ground – until the planned McLoughlin Point plant is within an estimated five years of capacity, which isn’t projected to happen until at least 2040.

Originally, it wasn’t clear to Colwood and Mayor Carol Hamilton when a facility might be constructed in the municipality following the assessment. When it became clear that it wouldn’t be built until it was absolutely needed, the study didn’t seem worth it.

“Technology is changing constantly, systems are being improved (and) footprints on plants are being improved,” Hamilton said.

She also noted that potential land identified as useful for a plant now might not be available decades down the road.

While the $2 million would have come from the Capital Regional District rather than the city, taxpayer money is taxpayer money, Hamilton said, and council didn’t feel it was a “prudent use” of public funds.

“It just didn’t make sense to spend (potentially) another $2 million dollars of taxpayer money … on a study that would end up sitting on a shelf for 30 years or so.”

During the Nov. 14 meeting, Colwood chief administrative officer Ian Howat also noted that changing political landscapes might make the study a waste.

“What we do today may not be palatable for the councillors four or five terms from now, and that also applies to the CRD elected officials as well,” he said before recommending that council request postponement of the study.

Colwood has been vocal about wastewater treatment plants in the past as it tries to ensure City residents aren’t stuck paying an unfair portion of the bill, with only about 30 per cent of the municipality’s homes connected to sewers.

The City was willing to provide land for its own facility, but the CRD eventually rejected the idea of several smaller facilities in the region in favour of a large, centralized plant at Esquimalt’s McLoughlin Point.

Hamilton would have preferred it if the CRD had looked at a different solution than the single, high-capacity plant at McLoughlin. She used the example of Royal Bay secondary, which is already at capacity in its second scholastic year, as an example of what can happen when decisions are made without proper forward thinking.

“I don’t want people looking at this in a short period of time going, ‘you had a chance to do it all brand new and this is what you took?’” she said.

Colwood Coun. Cynthia Day was stronger in voicing her displeasure with the McLoughlin result at this week’s council meeting.

“After all the time and effort that was made to look at something innovative … we are right back to where we started, forced to participate in a (plant) downtown based on population projections that are fatally flawed,” she said.

“As much as I’m unhappy with that and the subsequent additional costs and lack of environmental benefit for the citizens of Colwood, I think it would be foolish to start trying to plan for a future that’s that far away.”

The CRD was not immediately available for comment.

joel.tansey@goldstreamgazette.com