McLoughlin Point and Clover Point are now the two sites selected to potentially look at building two secondary or tertiary sewage treatment plants.
At the opening of a lengthy discussion Wednesday amongst members of the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee (CALWAC), chair and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps told members the province is willing to help the region find a solution and facilitate a way to move forward, but first it needs a plan to help with.
With an estimated cost of more than $1 billion for the two plants, Helps noted the McLoughlin Point/Clover Point option isn't perfect due to the high cost, but it is a step forward.
“It's a leap of faith, but we're not taking that leap in the dark. We're taking that leap with the help and hopefully the long-term help of two ministers and their staff,” said Helps, stressing the committee isn't locked into anything at this time.
“We're saying given where we are today, given the information we have, this is the direction that we're giving you so that we are not giving you nothing. They've been waiting for a while.”
According to CRD staff, a sewage treatment plant at Clover Point would be constructed underground so it’s out of sight from the public, just like the pump station currently there now. It would also be built to last until 2045 since it would be difficult to expand.
Committee members were torn about the proposal, with some agreeing a compromise has been found while others grappled with Clover Point suddenly being thrown into the mix.
For director and Victoria councillor Geoff Young, there are still many advantages with having a single site instead of two when it comes to cost.
“From the perspective of the taxpayer, we would be better off flipping a coin to determine a single site. This two-headed compromise has a cost of $250 million or so more than a single site option,” said Young, who still believes McLoughlin is the best site for a single plant, even though it was rejected by Esquimalt nearly two years ago.
Young also believes there's no way Victoria council will approve a plant at Clover Point, therefore the proposal is doomed to fail.
Director Ben Isitt also questioned Clover Point and suggested adding Macaulay Plain into the mix, along with negotiating with the neighbouring Department of National Defence for more land to expand the 0.3 hectare site.
“The reasonableness you're asking, the generosity you're asking of citizens of Victoria and their council in comparison with the veto that was given to Esquimalt — it's frankly ridiculous,” said Isitt. “These are private residential households directly across (from Clover Point) where this committee is contemplating putting in a major plant after Esquimalt turned down a facility that was half a kilometre away from the nearest residential property.”
The CRD has until the end of March to submit a detailed plan for wastewater treatment in the region or risk losing $83.4 million in grant funding. The federal government has also committed $170 million in funding.