While Esquimalt and Vic West residents are breathing a collective sigh of relief now that plans to build a sewage sludge plant in their neighbourhood have been axed, residents living in rural Saanich and Willis Point are preparing for a fight of their own.
Last Wednesday, the Capital Regional District abandoned a proposal to place a biosolids plant at Viewfield Road in Esquimalt’s light industrial park.
With that, Hartland landfill in Saanich becomes the No. 1 location.
Jeff Irwin, chair of the Willis Point Community Association, fears there are too many potential risks from the facility, and having to build an 18 kilometre pipeline McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt across the city to Hartland. By the CRD’s own count the pipe would cross 10 waterways and 12 major roads.
“We’re very concerned about if there’s a problem with this plan, there could be contamination for our wells. We’re worried about pipelines running across the municipalities. We’re worried about the increased traffic load on our one road going in and out. We’re worried about possible increased demand for our local volunteer fire department,” Irwin said.
Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard says it’s premature for residents to be making up their minds on a proposed facility.
“I would hope the CRD would have a chance to make a proposal and describe it and listen to concerns, and then come back with mitigations and amenities. Then people would pass judgment once everything is known,” he said.
A biosolids plant at Hartland has been written into the regional sewage treatment plan approved by the province, but Leonard said regardless of the CRD’s intent, using Hartland isn’t a done deal. A rezoning application will be required to come before Saanich council.
“I’m making it clear to the CRD, as I would anybody else, council is the last place you go. The first place you go is to the community. In this case that’s the rural Saanich community, the people of Willis Point, and even people in the Highlands should be engaged,” he said.
Andy Orr, spokesperson for the CRD, said there is currently no timeline for getting a rezoning application before Saanich, but said “it needs to happen fairly quickly.”
Irwin says there hasn’t been much communication with the CRD as of yet, but expects there will be community meetings in the near future to discuss the plans for Hartland.
“It worries me that the CRD’s going to do whatever they want and not really consult with us at all,” he said.
-with files from Daniel Palmer