A last-minute uprising at a Capital Regional District committee meeting will result in staff taking another look at alternatives to the Hartland Landfill for a biosolids energy centre.
As chair Denise Blackwell tried to wrap up a core area management committee meeting Wednesday, a late push led by Esquimalt Mayor Barbara Desjardins resulted in a significant change to the CRD’s direction.
While staff are still moving towards public consultation for the use of the Saanich-based regional landfill as the location for the sewage sludge plant, the motion means staff will once again be looking at alternatives. This comes after the CRD abandoned a proposal earlier this month to build the plant on Viewfield Road in Esquimalt.
Blackwell tried to rule the motion out of order due to time concerns, but enough committee members rallied in its favour to have it brought forward and carried.
“I wasn’t trying to block anybody from speaking,” she said afterward, “although as the chair I have to be conscious of the time and the fact that another meeting is about to take place.”
Blackwell believes the original motion was appropriate and disagrees with prolonging the process with another search for an alternative site.
“Given what happened in Esquimalt, even if we did find another site that was closer in, I think we would have the same difficulties,” she said. “The plan is the plan. We need to get on with it.”
For her part, Desjardins said there was “considerable discomfort” with the committee endorsing Hartland.
“The sentiment around the table was quite strong that Hartland is really not an ideal site,” she said.
Moving forward with public consultation over Hartland is not the issue, Desjardins added, but having it as the only option is.
Desjardins’ concerns with Hartland stem from its distance from the proposed wastewater treatment facility at McLoughlin Point and the potential dangers associated with pumping materials the 18 kilometres to the Saanich site.
“There’s a significant risk,” she said. “The whole idea of having two sites so far away is probably not the best use of taxpayers’ money.”
Saanich councillor and committee member Judy Brownoff said enough is enough and it’s time to move forward with a plan that has been in the works since 2006. She had to leave the meeting before the vote, but disagrees with the decision to prolong the process.
“We had looked at over 16 sites in the region. So it’s not like we weren’t looking,” Brownoff said. “Tell me where a site is. I want a municipality to put up its hand and say ‘You know what? We’ll take that site.’ And that’s just not going to happen.”
Issues such as the distance to pump to Hartland have been thoroughly investigated and resolved, said Brownoff, the former chair of the committee. If energy is spent looking into anything, she said, it should be gasification – developing technology to use organic waste to produce energy. Hartland was an industry leader for doing a similar process with garbage.
Treatment plant site needs addressing, too
With Esquimalt council having recently rejected the CRD’s rezoning request for the treatment plant on McLoughlin Point, staff from Esquimalt and CRD need to meet to hash out a new plan.
CRD liquid waste management committee chair Denise Blackwell believes the two parties may have to ask the provincial ministry of environment to help facilitate the discussion.
“My understanding was our staff is going to contact their staff and try to set something up,” Blackwell said. “We have to come to some kind of agreement. I think it’s really important to make McLoughlin work. What other site would there be?”
Environment Minister Mary Polak has said the issue should be solved at the local level.