Emotions were running high Monday night as more than 400 people packed the Crystal Garden to weigh in on a proposed sewage treatment plant at Victoria’s Clover Point.
“How many people, by applause, do not approve a plant at Clover Point?” shouted a man during a city presentation explaining how Clover Point entered the Capital Regional District’s (CRD) sewage treatment plan. He was answered with a deafening applause, followed by more heckling from the crowd.
Although there was strong opposition against the construction of a sewage treatment plant at Clover Point, not everyone who attended the meeting was opposed to the proposed plan that calls for a two-plant system with a facility also located at McLoughlin or Macaulay points in Esquimalt.
Paul Bourque lives one kilometre from Clover Point and goes there every day. He came to the meeting with an open mind.
“I am not against it. I visited many sewage treatment plants in Europe and what they are proposing here is similar, probably a lot better,” said Bourque, who’s seen sewage plants in residential neighbourhoods. “They need to get on with it. It’s been going on for years and years and wasted so much money. It’s ridiculous.”
For Fairfield resident Helen Verway, the price tag is the most important factor.
“I know the people that live around me, they are not happy, but it has to go somewhere,” she said. “It’s the beginning of the beginning and who knows what’s going to happen in the end. We don’t want another blue bridge issue.”
The subject of sewage treatment has been a contentious one for more than 30 years in Greater Victoria and has cost taxpayers millions of dollars so far. On March 9, however, the CRD approved the two-plant plan that has an estimated cost of around $1 billion. Neither site was included on the list of seven options presented.
CRD directors chose to look at the two sites since they are in close proximity to existing sewage outfalls. It would also avoid the need to spend $250 million to rip up Cook Street from Dallas Road to Bay Street to install pipes if a plant were to be constructed on the vacant Rock Bay industrial site.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps spent part of Monday night explaining to residents how the CRD wound up with the current plan. The meeting marked the first opportunity for city officials to hear what residents have to say.
“It’s not necessarily about this site or that site. The sites have changed a number of times. What it’s about is we are likely to have a wastewater facility in Victoria. That’s pretty certain,” said Helps. “If there’s going to be one in Victoria, what do people want? It’s the beginning of a new plan and we’ll take a very active role to make sure whatever ends up in the city meets the needs of our residents.”
The CRD is in the midst of developing a process for the private sector to submit concepts on sewage treatment, which could help determine where a facility should be located. Approval is needed from both Victoria and Esquimalt councils in order to move the current plan forward.
The CRD has until the end of September to make a decision on sewage treatment or risk losing millions of dollars in federal funding.