Capital Regional District directors who hinder progress on the upcoming secondary sewage treatment project could face steep fines – even jail time – under new federal regulations.
CRD staff presented a report on new Fisheries Act regulations that warns directors if they intentionally do not meet the 2020 deadline for the project, they could be fined up to $500,000 or face two years in prison.
“That’s for every individual incident, and each day the violation occurs is a separate incident,” said Denise Blackwell, chair of the CRD’s liquid waste management committee.
The federal wastewater regulations, brought into effect last month, identify nearly 400 communities across Canada that are considered high risk for their lack of secondary sewage treatment.
“The federal government believes we’re their number one target for not meeting these regulations, and that’s why they’re giving us $280 million,” Blackwell said.
The federal and provincial governments have agreed to fund two-thirds of the Capital Region’s $782-million project, while the CRD will foot the remainder.
The CRD commitment to the project was never in doubt. But critics have been lobbying the regional district to request an exemption under the regulations and avoid the huge public expenditure.
The Association for Responsible and Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment (ARESST) purports the current system of pumping screened sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca is environmentally sound.
But CRD staff wrote in their report that “there are no opportunities to get an exemption from the new regulations, unless the facility is located in the north,” specifying only Nunavut, Northwest Territories and parts of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador as eligible areas.
Former federal environment minister David Anderson told the News that the regulations should be adjusted to allow regions like Greater Victoria the chance to utilize its unique geographical advantages for sewage treatment.
“If the federal government decided to have the same snow-removal requirements for Victoria as in Quebec, we would call that ridiculous,” Anderson said.
When the CRD passes a bylaw later this month, a process will begin to appoint a panel of seven experts who will run the project. While no CRD directors will sit on the panel, the bylaw will contain explicit language to ensure financial accountability, Blackwell said.
“Any changes to the budget in any way, shape or form have to come back to (the CRD).”
The panel should be in place by November. Its first task will be to solicit requests for qualifications from interested companies for the McLoughlin Plant design and construction.