Esquimalt and Vic West residents are breathing a collective sigh of relief after battling plans for a sewage sludge plant in their neighbourhood.
Last Wednesday, the Capital Regional District abandoned a proposal to place a biosolids plant at Viewfield Road in Esquimalt’s light industrial park, thanks in no small part to the roar of opposition from citizens.
“It’s a huge relief to have it resolved, it was a very foolish venture in the first place,” said Diane Carr, Vic West Community Association president.
Ensuring their voices were heard by the CRD meant huge time commitments from many residents at the expense of other projects, Carr said.
“It’s difficult when you have to put that much energy into something that shouldn’t be happening,” she said. “The CRD has not acted in the interest of the citizens they’re supposed to be serving.”
Esquimalt Residents Association co-chair Nick Kovacs said he felt like he’d “won the lottery” after CRD directors unanimously rejected the Viewfield site.
“I was skeptical right up until the end that the (CRD) board wouldn’t go through with it,” Kovacs said. “It shows that citizens do have a voice, and if there’s something we feel strongly enough about … the CRD will listen.”
Kovacs chastised CRD officials for spending $17 million on the Viewfield site and said residents will now turn their attention to the development of McLoughlin Point, where the CRD hopes to begin construction on its wastewater treatment plant before the end of the month.
“People are very quickly losing faith in the CRD, and if they keep screwing things up, it could lead to their authority being clawed back by the province,” Kovacs said.
Carr said the upside of the Viewfield controversy is it has led to a much better public understanding of the CRD’s $783-million sewage treatment project, a project she initially supported.
“I’m now convinced that what the CRD is proposing to do is foolish to an unbelievable degree,” she said. “But what’s that quote from Margaret Mead? ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.'”