She’s not surprised McLoughlin Point has wound up on the shortlist of options for a wastewater treatment facility in the capital region.
But until the core area wastewater treatment project board releases its final report in a few weeks, recommending the best site for a plant, Esquimalt Mayor and CRD (Capital Regional District) chair Barb Desjardins doesn’t want to pre judge the future of McLoughlin Point.
“The project board has been sifting through all of the information and this is what they brought forward to date. I think the important information is still to come,” said Desjardins. “The site is only one small part of what we’ve heard from the region.”
The core area wastewater treatment project board released its interim report last week that included a shortlist of options — a single plant at Rock Bay in Victoria, a single plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt, or a plant at both locations.
In all options, secondary treatment was looked at and biosolids would be conveyed to the Hartland landfill — a 125 hectare site located in Saanich. The estimated range of cost is pegged between $750 million and $1.1 billion.
According to Jane Bird, chair of the project board, the project board established a methodology to consider and evaluate alternative options. Key themes of prior consultations were also considered, along with the extensive public commentary when narrowing down the list of options.
Bird is well aware of the concerns that have been echoed in the past with a single plant at McLoughlin Point.
“Our job now it so say alright, let’s unpack what’s behind those concerns and think about whether we can be responsible to those concerns as part of our recommendation,” said Bird, noting a more detailed cost analysis will be done on the shortlisted options, along with further review of the key themes against them.
“The difficulty with two sites is they tend to be more expensive so that’s a bit of a challenge with a two-plant option….Certainly cost is really important so it’s a big factor here. If there was a slight difference in cost, but the other benefits be the environmental or social were greater, would we consider absorbing a little bit more in cost?”
The subject of sewage treatment has been a contentious one for more than 30 years in Greater Victoria, costing taxpayers millions of dollars. Despite the arguments made by local scientists, the federal government has deemed Victoria as high-risk when it comes to its current method of discharging screened sewage into the ocean. The classification means the region has to move towards secondary sewage treatment by 2020 in order to comply with federal wastewater regulations.
Two years ago, the region came close to constructing a facility at McLoughlin Point, but the township rejected the plan, citing concerns with the size of the facility and the environmental impact.
In March, the CRD took another stab at the matter, voting to explore constructing two tertiary treatment facilities at Victoria’s Clover Point and McLoughlin or Macaulay points in Esquimalt at an estimated cost of around $1 billion. The proposal, however, sparked backlash from both communities and needed approval from Victoria and Esquimalt council in order to proceed.
The province waded into the matter in May to help the region find a way to move forward and established an independent panel of six experts, including Bird, to come up with a business case to present to the CRD in mid-September. CRD directors will ultimately have the final say on where a facility should be located.
Desjardins said there are still significant concerns for a single site at McLoughlin Point, and whether one could ever work there is a discussion council has yet to have.
“We still have a few weeks to wait. They’ve got a lot of work to do and the next information is going to really give us a true sense of what can be different,” said Desjardins. “They really haven’t brought forward any new information. I want to wait and know the full understanding of what they’re coming to.”
The final report, including the recommended option, will be available publicly on Sept. 7 and presented to the CRD Sept. 14. The CRD has until the end of September to submit its plans for wastewater treatment to the federal government or risk losing millions of dollars in funding.