Colwood city council has voted to ask the Capital Regional District for permission to change the regional sewage treatment plan in order to build its own facility.
Being asked for is an amendment to the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Plan allowing Colwood to operate its own wastewater treatment plant, and with no involvement in the regional facility based in Esquimalt.
“We want to do it in such a way that’s it’s no risk, no cost to CRD or its current plans,” said Coun. Judith Cullington, chair of the transportation and public infrastructure committee. “We want to stay within the plan and do our own little piece differently.”
The idea is to save Colwood taxpayers money. Colwood is in a unique position where it has a low percentage of its homes currently on sewers, about 25 per cent, but is having to buy into the regional plan and pay for capacity now which will not be used for years.
As it stands, Colwood’s current sewer users pay for their capacity, while all residents pay for future capacity. Many properties will never have the opportunity to join the sewer system and owners have voiced opposition to paying for a service they will never use.
On the other hand, Colwood councillors say sewer users are concerned about escalating costs, having to pay for their own use plus future community capacity.
“We’re an oddball in the system,” Cullington said. “It leaves the community with this quite big bill for all that future capacity.”
The proposed Colwood treatment plant would be built to handle current needs and short-term capacity increases. The plant would be added to, or other small plants would be constructed, in the future as needed. The city is also looking into tertiary treatment, which creates non-potable water which can be used for irrigation and other community needs.
“There’s great value in it,” said Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton. “At the end of the day we’re in control of those costs and I think ultimately it’s going to be a better treatment process.”
Tentatively approved by council, Colwood plans are to locate its plant underneath the park-and-ride at West Shore Parks and Recreation, off Ocean Boulevard.
City engineer Michael Baxter said the location would be ideal as it is city land, is above the CRD sewer trunk line, has no residential neighbours and is near businesses and facilities which could benefit from the energy and water it creates. While no plans are set in stone, the current concept sees all park-and-ride remaining.
“It seems hard to come up with a better site, it’s such a perfect site,” Baxter said.
The city has set aside $200,000 to go towards preparing the application and beginning initial planning of a local sewage treatment facility. If the CRD allows the amendment, the city will begin regional public consultation before going to the Ministry of Environment for approval.
Cullington said the Colwood plan will have advantages for the larger region, as it will free up capacity for other municipalities, extending the timeline before the regional treatment plant maxes out. Colwood’s move will also mean when the planned West Shore treatment plant is built in 2020, regional taxpayers won’t have to foot the bill for Colwood’s sewage treatment.
“It’s certainly something I’ve heard consistently people saying they’re supportive of this approach,” Cullington said.