Metal recycling site courts CRD for Greater Victoria biosolids site

Schnitzer Steel goes public with bid to sell land for biosolids processing plant

As if the Capital Region’s sewage treatment plans needed another wild card.

This week, Schnitzer Steel – a scrap metal yard located on Victoria’s upper harbour – revealed it was willing to vacate half of its leased heavy industrial property to make way for the Capital Regional District’s biosolids processing plant.

The company said it wanted to offer an alternative solution to the controversy surrounding properties at Esquimalt’s light industrial park on Viewfield Road and at Saanich’s Hartland landfill for the biosolids plant. A separate wastewater treatment facility is slated for McLoughlin Point.

In the 11th-hour announcement, Schnitzer said efficiencies in its recycling process mean 1.6 hectares of its 3.2 ha property at 307 David St. are up for grabs, if the CRD offers the right purchasing price.

Property owner Fred Berman is also on board with the plan, but negotiations with the CRD already fell apart once when neither party could agree on a purchase price, said Michael Geoghegan, media spokesman for Schnitzer.

Complicating the proposal is the need to remediate the soil, which has been used for industrial purposes for more than a century.

Instead of purchasing the land, the CRD could take out a 50-year lease on the property to avoid clean-up costs at a comparable overall cost to the Viewfield Road site, Geoghegan said.

“We thought we’d approach the CRD again and make it public and discuss the pros and cons. … Even if we need to deal with the soil issue, let’s focus on getting to yes,” he said.

CRD spokesman Andy Orr confirmed discussions with the property owner began two years ago and that talks were still taking place as recently as February of this year.

“We were under a confidentiality agreement with the owner,” Orr said. “If we could come to an agreement, it’s a viable site … but we’d have to come to a pretty quick resolution.”

On Friday, neither Schnitzer representatives nor Berman had held discussions with the CRD to discuss reopening negotiations, Orr said.

Geoghegan suggested the CRD could also take advantage of a rebuilt dock at the David Street facility to barge biosolids waste instead of using trucks through urban areas.

The assessed value of the eight acre-property is about $1.5 million, according to City of Victoria documents.

dpalmer@vicnews.com