As the Capital Regional District (CRD) continues to explore options for constructing a sewage treatment plant somewhere in the region, board chair Barb Desjardins has noticed the same question continues to arise — is this really necessary?
The question prompted the CRD to ask federal officials for clarification on why Victoria has been deemed high-risk, forcing the region to move towards secondary sewage treatment by 2020 in order to comply with wastewater regulations.
In a responding letter, Jonathon Wilkinson, parliamentary secretary to the minister of environment and climate change, outlined the points system that allocates the level of risk based on science criteria for effluent quality, quantity and receiving environmental considerations.
Wilkinson notes the total risk points allocated for Macaulay Point and Clover Point (where the current sewage outfalls are located) is 126 and 112. If 70 points or more are allocated, the deadline to upgrade is Dec. 31, 2020.
Nonetheless, some members of the public and scientists who’ve studied the ocean for years continue to dispute Victoria’s classification, but Desjardins said the reality is it has to get done.
“It hasn’t particularly satisfied people that in fact we do need to treat, so we wanted to get clarity because the last time we got that information was a number of years ago and it’s obviously faded from the public’s minds,” said Desjardins.
“There is no other alternative here. We are trying to put that to rest so we can focus on how do we move forward and have everyone on the same page?”
View Royal resident Brian Burchill, chair of the Association for Responsible and Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment (ARESST), has long sided with local scientists who say the current method of discharging screened sewage into a tidal ocean is appropriate for now and shows negligible signs of harming human or marine health.
Hearing the CRD confirm the region needs to treat by 2020, based on having a high-risk designation under the federal regulations, left Burchill shaking his head.
In regular contact with University of Victoria marine scientists, Burchill said he’s asked biologists about the points-based classification tables and was told they wouldn’t even consider using such a blanket criteria without adding more detailed localized data.
The CRD is currently exploring a two-plant approach that calls for secondary or tertiary plants at either McLoughlin or Macaulay Point in Esquimalt and Clover Point in Victoria. The estimated cost is around $1 billion.
— with files from Don Descoteau, Black Press