EDITORIAL: Don’t pass the sewage buck

Greater Victoria's sewage answers must make the best of a bad situation

The regional sewage treatment project has no shortage of critics. Citizen opposition groups in Greater Victoria decry that the venture is a colossal waste of money, and residents and politicians in Esquimalt don’t want treatment plants in their backyard.

Trying to shoehorn a large piece of sewage treatment infrastructure into an urban area is guaranteed to anger and disrupt the lives of some residents and businesses, which is rightly a concern of Esquimalt council.

But the latest desperate offering by Esquimalt’s mayor to have the Capital Regional District consider relocating the entire project to rural farmland in Saanich is woefully self-serving and would only accomplish passing the buck to a different municipality.

The landowner has a right to offer the land for sale and the CRD board can give it a look. But to push this as a viable location for sewage and sludge treatment gives false hope to residents potentially impacted by the project.

It also comes years after painstaking and costly studies were undertaken to decide on where to locate sewage treatment infrastructure.

The CRD rejected the proposal. The Burnside Road West location is provincially protected agricultural land reserve and the move would add some $200 million to an already expensive $783-million project.

On the upside, the property offered is 16 hectares and would allow a single location for regional sewage treatment, and is far from homes. But the considerable downside is  pumping sewage from the Macaulay and Clover Point outfalls about 13 kilometres across the city for treatment on the farmland, and then back to an outfall.

That’s almost as bad as the proposal to pump (or truck) biosolids 18 kilometres to Hartland landfill for energy extraction.

Building a treatment plant at an industrial site at McLoughlin Point and potentially at the warehouse complex on Viewfield Road, in the middle of residential Esquimalt, is probably the best of a hard situation, given the geography of Greater Victoria and available land in the city.