It’s no secret that the West Shore is the fastest growing area in Greater Victoria.
While the populations of Langford, Colwood and View Royal combined would make them the region’s third largest municipality at more than 60,000 residents, the Capital Regional District has seen fit to postpone the creation of a separate sewage treatment plant until potentially 2030 or later.
So why is the CRD holding off on putting the Langford-Colwood-View Royal triumvirate into the mix?
The additional cost, which would be borne by the seven municipalities and two First Nations involved, is one answer.
But coming up with a more definitive plan to address West Shore growth is what’s concerning the area’s members of the CRD core area liquid waste management committee, each of whom voted for the Clover Point/McLoughlin or Macaulay point proposal.
Coun. Lanny Seaton and Coun. Denise Blackwell represent Langford on the core area wastewater management committee, joining Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton and View Royal Mayor David Screech. Seaton voiced frustration that a West Shore plant wasn’t included in the recommended plan.
“Most of the people are (asking) me, ‘why don’t we just do our own?’ I think Langford would have had two small plants up and running by now,” he said, noting that the federal requirement to have an outfall as a failsafe measure complicated that idea. “Why not look at a plant here now, then you can cut down the size of the plant at McLoughlin?”
Blackwell was rather exasperated following the March 9 meeting of the sewage committee, when the group decided to recommend the dual-plant approach to the CRD board, and ultimately put such a plan forward to take to the provincial and federal governments. The former committee chair was convinced the West Shore needs to continue investigating its options, both separately and together with the rest of the CRD municipalities.
“I think to be prudent, the West Shore has to continue working on a plant of their own so that we have a plan B,” she said.
Colwood mayor continues to lobby for equity
Colwood began a process to go its own way on sewage treatment in late 2013. It was already clear the cost-sharing model for a regional plant was not fair to Colwood residents, about only 30 per cent of whom are connected to sewer. Current sewer users are billed for usage, while all residents pay for future capacity. Many properties will never be hooked up to the system and owners complain about paying for a service they’ll never use.
A site at the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Island Highway was tentatively approved by Colwood council in early 2014. The plan was to have it handle current flows, but be flexible for future growth, a point brought up regularly in more recent discussions.
The one-site McLoughlin Point program called for a West Shore plant to be built in 2020, when it was forecast that flows from the area would warrant a separate facility to take capacity from McLoughlin. While the latter has never been started, the since-completed $12-million Craigflower pumping station is a visible part of the old plan.
Under the current finance model for the regional treatment program, which is based on the number of sewer users, not flows, the estimated average per-household cost for Colwood would be more than $700 per year, far higher than any other municipality.
Hamilton said the City, through its work with the Westside sub-committee, is working on finding an arrangement that more equitably bills not only her constituents, but others. “There shouldn’t be a difference in rate between any of the municipalities across the region,” she said. Putting such a plan in place would go a long way to rebuild trust in the CRD among her residents, she added.
Newer infrastructure causes less problems on West Shore
Local businessman and former Colwood mayor David Saunders isn’t necessarily sold on the idea that the West Shore needs its own plant sooner than later. Given that much of the infrastructure in the area is newer than in the CRD core, and conservation measures such as low-flow toilets and simply using less water in general have caught on, he said, the growth factor isn’t having as much of an impact as one might think.
The newer infrastructure makes for less leakages into and out of the sewer and stormwater systems – known as inflow and infiltration (I & I) – which results in lower overall flows into the sewage mains, Saunders said, and lessens the current need for a separate plant. The former chair of the CRD’s solid waste management committee said the I & I problems around the region, especially in Oak Bay, plus the toxic leachate piped from the Hartland landfill into the sewers are more of a problem.
“The stuff that goes into our sewer system should not be put anywhere in our lakes, our oceans or anywhere without treatment,” he said of the liquid produced when rain and groundwater percolate through refuse at the dump. “It would have to be a greater level than secondary to get rid of (that).”
While the CRD monitors those leachate discharges into the sewers and must ensure they meet the standards of its own Sewer Use Bylaw, Saunders said cleaning up that aspect of the waste system will be a costly part of the solution that will ultimately be charged to taxpayers on top of the sewage treatment project costs.
Price sector best suited for procurement: businessman
Determining where to locate the core area’s sewage treatment plants was the highest-profile decision on the plate of the Capital Regional District. Equally important was keeping the door open to new technologies and ways of utilizing the recommended sites at McLoughlin/Macaulay and Clover points.
The plan approved by the CRD board on March 9 invites submissions of project concepts from private industry to shape what the plants would look like and what technologies could be used.
One Greater Victoria businessman likes that idea, but says it’s time for CRD staff and the politicians to let private enterprisers take over the procurement aspects of the project.
Bill Beadle, perhaps best known as the man who built neighbourhood pubs around Greater Victoria, has lobbied local politicians for the last couple of years about best practises for moving forward with the massive project.
He’s on Langford’s sewage treatment committee, tasked by Mayor Stew Young to help find the best option for that City. And while Beadle still believes “heads should roll” at the CRD over what he calls the mismanagement of this project, he feels better about where the project is headed. “I am quite optimistic because of where it’s been,” he said. “I’m still looking to the finish line, saying ‘don’t let up.’ We have to hold people to account.”
He suggests that a Jimmy Pattison-style leader take charge, similar to how the Vancouver businessman shouldered the load for Expo 86 and guided it to great success.
But View Royal Mayor David Screech is wary of having one person or company oversee the next steps. “I think it’s absolutely critical we have some sort of panel similar to (the technical oversight panel) … that is going to advise us on the different technologies and ideas that come forward,” he said.
Screech said the CRD has to be very careful what it ends up with – “I’m all for it being innovative, but we also have to have proven technologies that can do the job and keep (within) the budget.”
If the West Shore creates a plan for its own plant, especially one that is expandable, he added, it gives Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins a better hope of selling a smaller plant at McLoughlin to her residents.
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