Saanich mayor attacks planned sewage tour of Europe

Three CRD board members and two staff members would travel to Europe

Pending final approval, three board members, one staff member and one consultant of the CRD would visit sites in Germany, Spain, Belgium and France to learn more about the processing of biosolids, organics andmixed waste streams as part of plans to build a regional sewage treatment plant and bio-processing facility.

Mayor Richard Atwell says taxpayers should not have to pay for a planned tour of European sewage and biosolid processing plants. “It is a cash cow project benefiting the airline and hotel industries,” said Atwell.

Atwell made these comments after the Integrated Resource Management Advisory Committee (IRMAC) approved the trip by a vote of 6-5. Coun. Vicki Sanders, who represented Saanich as an alternate on the committee, also voted against it. Coun. Colin Plant, who sits on the committee, had left the meeting before the vote.

“I spoke out against it and I thought it was a poor use of taxpayers’ money,” said Atwell. The trip also promises to offer few beneficial insights, because it will examine plants that will hold few if any lessons for the Capital Regional District. “I don’t think it’s objective,” said Atwell.

Pending final approval, three board members, one staff member and one consultant of the Capital Regional District (CRD) would visit sites in Germany, Spain, Belgium and France to learn more about the processing of biosolids, organics and mixed waste streams as part of plans to build a regional sewage treatment plant and bio-processing facility.

Current totals peg the cost of the complete project at $765-million. It will provide seven municipalities in Greater Victoria with the region’s first tertiary wastewater treatment system with completion scheduled for 2020. The proposed trip to Europe would cost an estimated $8,500 per person — or $42,500 in total. Plans also call for a visit of three sites in North America, with an estimated per-person cost of $4,000 — or $20,000 in total for a grand total of $62,500.

The project — especially the bio-processing facility — faces tight provincial deadlines and a staff report notes that the facility tour “effectively replaces” an internal pilot project “which would have taken substantially longer to complete.”

The proposed trip must still gain support from the CRD’s Environmental Services Committee (ESC) and its full board.

If it goes ahead, CRD board chair Barb Desjardins (Mayor of Esquimalt) , IRMAC chair Maja Tait (Mayor of Sooke) and ESC chair Carol Hamilton (Mayor of Colwood) would constitute the political component of the delegation. A CRD staff member and consultant would join them.

News of the trip — which has also drawn criticism from other board members — comes against the backdrop of crews drilling holes in Saanich to test the ground for a pipeline that would carry sewage from the future wastewater treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt for treatment at a yet-to-be constructed facility at Saanich’s Hartland Landfill.

Updates to follow.

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