Residents start petition to stop proposed sewage treatment sites

A petition has been circulating to stop a plant from being constructed at Victoria's beloved Clover Point.

Disappointed. That’s how Brian Lepine feels whenever he thinks about the possibility of a sewage treatment plant being constructed at Victoria’s beloved Clover Point.

He’s not alone. The Fairfield resident is among a large group of citizens in the midst of a letter-writing and petition campaign to stop a plant from being constructed at the site. Lepine always knew Clover Point would play some part in the ongoing sewage saga since it already has a small pump station underground. But he never thought the site could be ripped up again to potentially host a much larger facility, causing significant disruptions to the community.

“Council argues it’s going to be turned back to a park, but that will be three years and in the meantime you are going to fracture this community and that really bothers me,” said Lepine, adding hundreds of people in the community are against the proposal.

“I’ve heard the (Esquimalt) mayor planting her feet and saying this is not going to happen (at McLoughlin Point)…We don’t have that (in Victoria) for some reason.”

Earlier this month, the Capital Regional District (CRD) approved a two-plant tertiary treatment system with facilities at Clover Point in Victoria and McLoughlin or Macaulay points in Esquimalt. The cost is more than $1 billion.

According to CRD staff, a sewage treatment plant at Clover Point would be constructed underground so it’s out of sight from the public like the pump station currently there. Construction, however, would likely take a couple years to complete.

The CRD’s plan has been submitted to Victoria and Esquimalt council for discussion. Victoria has since requested a meeting between the CRD and Fairfield/Gonzales Community Association land-use committee (CALUC). The CRD will make a presentation to Esquimalt council on April 11.

Esquimalt’s Mayor Barb Desjardins is in favour of the two-site approach and hearing what the private sector has to say. But other township residents aren’t so keen.

A few neighbourhood associations near McLoughlin Point are encouraging citizens to write their local politicians, citing a drop in property values and odor problems should a plant be constructed at the site.

The Victoria Sewage Treatment Alliance has been leaving pamphlets on Esquimalt citizen’s doorsteps, stating nothing better than McLoughlin Point has been proposed during extensive public consultation during the last nine years. It further claims that taxpayers will be spending an extra $264 million if two plants are built instead of one.

For Victoria Mayor Lisa helps, concerns like odor and property values are part of the common myths associated with sewage treatment plants.

“I think the biggest myth is that it’s going to be ugly, it’s going to be stinky with trucks coming and going…It won’t stink because the technology has changed from the first systems that were built,” said Helps, noting one of the items in the project charter is that a sewage treatment facility will integrate seamlessly into neighbourhoods.

“There will be disruption during construction, but there are wastewater treatment facilities in other residential neighbourhoods, underneath residential neighbourhoods and right in downtowns, so I would encourage people to be curious and interested as to what wastewater facilities can be in the 21st century.”

If a plant is going to be built in Victoria, Helps wants residents to have input and co- design what that facility could look like. She doesn’t believe it’s about convincing the public to get on board, but rather inviting citizens to participate in the process.