Whenever Barb Desjardins and Lisa Helps have phone conversations with provincial officials about the region’s plans for a sewage treatment facility, excitement brews over the innovative solutions the private sector might have to offer.
The CRD (Capital Regional District) is now moving ahead with developing a process for the private sector to submit concepts on sewage treatment, which could help determine where a facility should be located.
The CRD’s current proposed plan calls for two secondary or tertiary sewage plants at either McLoughlin or Macaulay Point in Esquimalt and Clover Point in Victoria. A third facility would eventually be constructed somewhere on the West Shore. Approval is needed from both councils in order to move forward.
Esquimalt has been hesitant to throw its support behind the new plan, with some councillors wanting to see the technologies that are available before a site is selected.
During a special meeting last week, council voted to reserve its decision until the conclusion of a community consultation, from which the township plans to develop a report on what residents require in order to support a facility in the area.
“That will set the tone as we go forward,” said Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, who’s hopeful the province will help the region reach a decision.
“It’s important that we figure out how we can go forward as a community. There are no sites off the table. If somebody comes in with a site that has never been vetted before, it will have to go through a process, but it will be considered.”
Lisa Helps, Victoria mayor and chair of the CRD’s Core Area Liquid Waste Advisory Committee (CALWAC), addressed Esquimalt council on the matter, urging the communities to work together instead of pitting against one another.
According to Helps, Victoria residents were just as surprised to see Clover Point added into the mix as Esquimalt was to see McLoughlin Point. Many residents accept there will be a sewage facility somewhere in Victoria, she noted, and the city is continuing conversations with the community before any support is given in principle.
Even though the focus is now on a two-plant solution, talking about a proposed sewage facility in Esquimalt is still a sore spot for Coun. Tim Morrison, who asked Helps why a centralized plant at McLoughlin Point continues to hang in the air.
“It keeps hanging in the air because certain directors keep bringing it up,” said Helps, who met with Community, Sport and Cultural Developoment Minister Peter Fassbender last week.
“What he (Fassbender) asked all of us involved in the process is if we can focus on moving forward, if we can not look backwards, if we can keep our comments in the public realm positive. It doesn’t mean we need to be cheerleaders for this or that.”
CRD General Manager Larisa Hutcheson told council it would take a concerted effort to move back to a single plant option at McLoughlin Point.
The CRD is currently working towards a deadline at the end of September to make a decision on sewage treatment or risk losing $83 million in federal funding.