SEWAGE IN THE CRD: Esquimalt takes an uneasy second look at McLoughlin

Scaled-down site would take western flows only; Viewfield site surplus

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins at Saxe Point.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins at Saxe Point.

Nearly two years ago, the citizens of Esquimalt spoke loud and clear – McLoughlin Point was not the appropriate site for the Capital Regional District’s $783-million sewage treatment plant.

Esquimalt councillors were met with a standing ovation when they not only rejected the shoreline site, but unanimously slammed the door on any future proposals.

Despite the closed door, the CRD put McLoughlin back on the table due to the cost and disruption of alternatives. This time, however, it’s not being considered as the sole site for a treatment plant, but part of a two-facility solution that also includes Victoria’s Clover Point and allows for a future site on the West Shore. A DND-owned section of Macaulay Point is part of the recommendation, but only as an alternative to McLoughlin.

Given the history, the move to revisit McLoughlin didn’t sit well with Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, but now she’s in favour of moving ahead with the new plan to see how council will respond. She also wants to hear from the private sector, which may propose lower cost and more environmentally friendly solutions.

“With me or without me, the committee was going to have brought forward a site at McLoughlin, no matter what Esquimalt had said. There was nothing I could say that would have made any difference and that’s frustrating,” said Desjardins. “I am hearing from residents that there is an opportunity, given the right circumstances, to reconsider. I think the fact that it is not a single site option is really part of that discussion.”

Surrounded by Department of National Defence (DND) property, the CRD-owned McLoughlin site is a barren, fenced-off piece of land in an otherwise treed area, hiding it from public view except from the water. There are a few nearby homes used by DND personnel, but otherwise the site — a former oil tank farm — is isolated. It’s also located around the corner from the Macaulay Point outfall.

Residents take wait-and-see attitude

Nick Kovacs, chairman of the Esquimalt Resident’s Association, was surprised to see McLoughlin thrown back into the mix. Citizens are concerned, he noted, but are waiting to see what’s in the details this time around.

“If you build a modern facility, then McLoughlin Point makes sense. It’s away from the community, it’s an industrial site – what else are you going to build there?” said Kovacs, who favours tertiary treatment using a distributed model.

“If certain conditions are met, I would feel much more comfortable, but again, the devil is in the details.”

In 2008, Esquimalt began lobbying the CRD to explore a potential sewage treatment facility at McLoughlin Point rather than Macaulay Point. The following year, however, council pulled its support from McLoughlin and advised the CRD to explore other alternatives.

Nonetheless, the CRD moved ahead on the project, and later purchased a property on Viewfield Road in Esquimalt for $17 million as a potential site for biosolids processing. The McLoughlin Point site was bought from Imperial Oil for $4.6 million.

But in a second round of public hearings in March 2014, more than 100 residents from Esquimalt, Saanich, Victoria and elsewhere in the region spoke against the project, citing concerns with the size and environmental impact.

A few weeks later council rejected rezoning the site, noting the CRD failed to deliver requested information such as details on First Nations consultations, committee meeting minutes and an independent tsunami report.

The CRD was forced to go back to the drawing board, but first appealed to the province to mandate the rezoning of McLoughlin Point. The province refused to meddle in the ongoing sewage saga, even though about $60 million had been spent.

Now, however, the province has agreed to help facilitate the process in order to move the project forward, but the McLoughlin site still needs a green light from the municipality for that to happen.

Mayor says past experience unfairly painted Esquimalt residents

In looking back, Desjardins feels there was a lack of respect for the community and that residents still don’t trust the CRD. McLoughlin had been offered as a proactive solution, she explained, with residents seeing it as an opportunity for a possible distributed model with multiple plants. But the CRD sewage committee, basing its decision on staff recommendations, went with a centralized plant there instead.

“From there on, it was all about ‘that’s going to happen, you better accept it and by the way we’re not going to give you any mitigation,’” Desjardins said. “Had they done it differently, had they listened to the community and what the needs were, I really believe that process might have ended up differently.

“The reality is, it was off the rails long before we made the decision, and that was because of the lack of working with a community … Esquimalt has never been NIMBY and yet it’s painted as NIMBY. It’s always been about ‘let’s get the best solution.’”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C.’s public health restrictions on non-essential travel are reinforced by orders effective April 23, 2021 to stay within your own regional health authority except for essential travel such as work and medical appointmens. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 non-essential travel ban takes effect, $575 fines approved

Checks on highways, ferries between Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, Interior

Nic Hume and his fellow paramedic stopped to rescue the victim of an Oak Bay hit-and-run – a duck – at the end of their shift Thursday morning. (Nic Hume/Facebook)
Paramedics rescue unusual patient after Oak Bay hit-and-run

A female duck was rescued while a male one was deceased on scene

Craigdarroch Care Home has put in place enhanced control measures after Island Health declared a COVID-19 outbreak. (Google Earth)
Island Health declares outbreak at second Victoria long-term care home

Two staff members tested positive for COVID-19 at Craigdarroch Care Home

Tina Starkey with her seven-month-old puppy Sugar on the E&N Trail in Esquimalt. Starkey now carries a small personal alarm device, her thumb on the button. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
Encounters leave Vic West woman concerned for her safety

The 50-year-old wants self defence training, says she’s not alone

An early morning fire along Cameron Street has left two cats dead and two tenants homeless. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Early morning fire guts Victoria house, leaves 2 cats dead

Victoria Fire Department called out shortly before 2 a.m.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

As the snow in Manning Park melts, searchers are able to get a little farther each day. Photo submitted
Family resumes search for son missing in B.C.’s Manning park since October

‘This is our child, and we don’t give up on our children,’ said mother of Jordan, Josie Naterer

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canada buys 65M Pfizer booster shots for protection against COVID-19 variants

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the deal with Pfizer includes options to add 30 million doses in both 2022 and 2023, and an option for 60 million doses in 2024

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Have rising prices caused you to give up hope of buying a home?

Do you have a spare 50 grand or so kicking around (have… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 20

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

A plan flew over the Lower Mainland with a sign expressing some Canucks fans’ discontent with the team’s general manager. (Niqhil Velji - Twitter Screenshot)
#FireBenning movement gets off the ground in Metro Vancouver

Canucks fans raise enough money to fly banner over Metro Vancouver asking for team GM to be canned

The freed osprey keeps a wary eye on its rescuers after being deposited on its nest. (Photo credit: Greg Hiltz)
Hydro crew in Ashcroft gets osprey rescue call-out they won’t soon forget

Bird was tangled in baling wire hanging from a hydro pole, necessitating a tricky rescue

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth speaks to media at the Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday February 5, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to announce travel restrictions today to limit COVID-19 spread

Mike Farnworth is expected to give details of what the government views as essential travel

A downed power line has sparked a brush fire along Yellow Point Road south of Nanaimo. (Cole Schisler/Black Press)
Vancouver Islanders warned of fire risk caused by dry conditions

As dry spell poised to end, officials warn of risks involved with backyard burning

Most Read