A $775-million Greater Victoria wastewater treatment project in the works for more than a decade is less than six months from completion.
Testing has already begun on the Capital Regional District’s new wastewater treatment project and infrastructure is on track to meet the provincial and federal deadlines to have the system operating by the last day of 2020, said CRD board chair Colin Plant.
The new sewage treatment process will bring the region in line with the majority of coastal cities that have long abandoned the practice of dumping untreated wastewater into the ocean. Currently, Greater Victoria’s wastewater – which includes water from washing dishes, doing laundry and flushing the toilet – is discharged into the sea roughly one kilometre from shore.
Plant says change was slow in Victoria because a belief in the power of the ocean’s currents and oxygen levels promoted the idea that the region could discharge waste without harming the environment.
“We are one of the last, if not the last, coastal communities that discharges wastewater into the ocean untreated,” Plant said. “That’s not something we are particularly proud of.
“It may have been acceptable 50 years ago … but in 2020 we are concerned with respecting and being stewards of the ocean.”
With the new system, the water will be treated at the new McLoughlin Point Wastewater Treatment Plant. There, it will receive tertiary treatment – one of the highest levels of contaminant reduction processes – before it’s discharged into the ocean about two kilometres from shore and 60 metres below the surface. Since it started, the project has gone $10 million over budget – only 1.6 per cent of the budgeted cost, Plant noted.
Fisheries, wildlife, recreation and public health will benefit, but it isn’t just what’s removed – there’s also something gained –a dark, dry granular pellet classified as the highest standard of biosolid.
For now, the CRD is smoothing out a plan to have the biosolids sent to a cement manufacturer in Vancouver. In the long-term though, Plant hopes they will be put to use much closer to home.
“The moment we have finalized our deal with the cement factories … we will then turn our attention, almost immediately, to how this can benefit our region,” he said.