After three hours of debate and staff presentations, Capital Regional District directors rejected a motion to delay the $783-million wastewater treatment project on Tuesday.
The vote was held over from a Nov. 14 liquid waste management committee meeting, where nearly 30 public speakers argued for and against the need for regional secondary sewage treatment.
Saanich Coun. Vic Derman and Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins defended their motions to pursue a low-risk designation under federal regulations, a move that would extend the deadline for compliance from 2020 to 2040.
“This is not about not treating our sewage, this is about ensuring a better plan,” Desjardins said.
Derman argued better technology and money-saving measures can still be implemented.
Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin spoke for the majority on the committee when he said treatment is overdue and necessary.
“For each household, it’s a dollar a day,” Fortin said. “Let’s put this in perspective. It’s a big global cost (to not treat sewage) and we have a responsibility to implement (treatment).”
View Royal Mayor Graham Hill, one of four directors who voted to delay the project, implored his colleagues to work harder to gain public support for the mega-project.
He said directors would face consequences for failing to do so at the next municipal election.
“We have a challenge and it’s called the will of the public,” he said. “We need time to put on a better face to the community … so that we have their confidence and trust.”
The committee also approved a bylaw that will establish a commission of experts to run the project. The committee of the whole still needs to approve the bylaw.
Commission membership excludes elected officials, a condition of provincial funding, but CRD directors will still have the final say over budget and major project amendments.
“This committee has done a lot to ensure we won’t lose control (over the project),” said sewage committee member and Saanich councillor, Judy Brownoff.
The project currently includes construction of a wastewater treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt, upgrades to existing sewage pipes and a biosolids energy centre.
Jack Hull, CRD general manager of integrated water services, said the location of the biosolids facility could be relocated closer to McLoughlin Point if it proves to be a cost-saving measure.
The project is expected to cost Victoria homeowners approximately $350 annually, beginning in 2014.
The provincial and federal governments will contribute up to $501 million, while any cost overruns will fall on CRD taxpayers.