Region in need of sewage solution

Evidence suggests that a West Shore and ‘East Shore’ (Saanich, Victoria and Oak Bay) solution is going to cost taxpayers more

There have been a number of responses to the letter published in the Oak Bay News on Oct. 31. I’ve resisted the temptation to respond until I read the letters from Dr. Maler and Mr. Regier. Both contend that my letter was flush with inaccuracy, spinning out tired clichés and half-truths. I stand by the accuracy my statements, but recognize because of space limitations it’s impossible to present comprehensive details on every aspect of a project as complex as this one, which is also a limitation in this response. However, both letters illustrate the misinformation swilling around the sewage treatment project.

Tertiary treatment with advanced oxidation will not, as Maler suggests, eliminate contaminants from treatment plant effluent. Maler also inaccurately contends that the technology of the CRD proposal is 50 years old, whereas in fact it is about the same age as the Dockside Green technology and has only been in North America for about 20 years.

Maler cites two examples of what we should be doing – Dockside Green and Sechelt. Cost estimates were prepared for two plants using the same membrane technology as Dockside Green – one in Saanich East and one in Colwood with capacities of 16,600 and 14,000 cubic metres per day respectively. We’d need at least seven such plants at an estimated cost of over $1 billion and that’s before the costs for treating the residual solids. How much more is the public willing to pay for a distributed, tertiary treatment system with a limited improvement in effluent quality?

Maler and Regier misinterpret my point on credibility. The public is much better informed today than in the past thanks to the Internet and that’s a positive thing, but it is not a reason discount the expertise of experienced professionals. When a final decision is made on sewage treatment it will be based on materials generated by qualified and experienced professional consulting engineers who will take responsibility for design and will oversee construction.

The issue of water reuse using treated tertiary effluent keeps coming up. To reuse effluent you need end-users and without a continuous end use, which we don’t have, it makes no practical or economic sense particularly given the CRD’s effective water management strategy. Irrigation, for example, is needed for about four months, so what happens to the effluent for the other eight? I doubt if many homeowners are going to retrofit their homes with purple pipes so that they can flush their toilets with treated effluent.

I make no apology for my tenure as interim program director (2010 – 2013). Thinking outside the box eliminated the treatment plants in Saanich East and at Clover Point, deferred the plant on the West Shore for several decades, and centralized treatment at the site suggested by a previous Esquimalt council. The result was a reduction in the estimated costs of over $180 million to $783 million. That is the benchmark to which all other options will be compared.

All the evidence suggests that a West Shore and ‘East Shore’ (Saanich, Victoria and Oak Bay) solution is going to cost taxpayers hundreds of dollars more per year than the now abandoned McLoughlin option because every dollar over the current estimate will be 100 per cent paid by local taxpayers. I hope I’m wrong as I too am a local resident, who will be burdened with the extra costs.

Time to cease speculation and wait for disclosure of the cost estimates prepared by the professionals and a new public consultation process.

Jack Hull, P.Eng

Oak Bay