Greater Victoria homeowners are bracing to see an extra $200 to $500 on their annual property tax bills, now that the federal and provincial governments have committed their share of the $782-million cost of building sewage treatment infrastructure.
Residents in the seven invested municipalities of Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay, Esquimalt, Langford, View Royal and Colwood will have to absorb the tax hikes until the project is completed in 2018, said Denise Blackwell, chair of the Capital Regional District’s liquid waste management committee.
“A lot of people know that this is something that’s been a long time coming and is probably overdue,” she said.
“We still have some people who think dilution is the solution, but we’ve been ordered by the provincial government to do it. I believe later this week, the federal government is announcing the new regulations that will mean we have to do it anyway.”
The CRD needs to contribute $281 million – approximately one-third of the total cost – of the Core Area Wastewater Treatment Program, which includes construction of a treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt, upgrades to the conveyance system and a biosolids energy centre.
“Fundamentally, it’s time for us to treat our sewage,” said Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin. “We just cannot continue to dump our sewage into the ocean.”
James Moore, federal minister responsible for British Columbia, was on hand Monday to announce the federal funding portion.
He said the project is long overdue.
“This is a quarter of a billion dollars to end dumping of sewage into the waters around Victoria,” he said, adding he expects to see work to begin “later this year.”
The next step for the CRD will be hiring a project manager to oversee the work and to create a bylaw to establish a management committee.
The CRD will then receive requests for proposal from various contractors before breaking ground on the project, which is expected to create 10,000 person-years of labour.
“I think shovels in the ground at the end of this year is probably a bit optimistic, but beginning of next year for sure,” Blackwell said.
The ins and outs of sewage treatment
A wastewater treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt would extract biosolids, which would then be pumped 18 kilometres to Hartland Landfill in Saanich. There, a biosolids energy centre would dry the material and deposit it in cement kilns, to be housed at Cadboro Bay.
Some fast facts about the Core Area Wastewater Treatment Program:
• Total project cost: $782.7 million
• Start date: late 2012 or early 2013
• Projected completion date: 2018
• Annual operating costs to Capital Regional District: $14 million to $15 million
• Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay, Esquimalt, View Royal, Colwood, Langford are involved in the project
• The federal government initiated funding talks with the CRD in 2006