Taxpayers have a stake in sewage treatment

Thinking outside the CRD box would likely save us at least $300 million while building eight decentralized, modern tertiary treatment plants

Jack Hull is correct in stating that there is misinformation swirling around the sewage treatment project, however, we differ in stating from which side this misinformation is emanating.

I have references to scientific studies that show that tertiary treatment followed by advanced oxidation (UV+ peroxide) treatment does eliminate the vast majority of soluble chemicals that would be present in the effluent as opposed to such advanced oxidation of effluent from secondary treatment.

Mr. Hull is also correcting my previous statement that the CRD proposal would use 50-year-old technology, compared to much more modern tertiary treatment with superior membrane filtration used at Dockside Green. In my letter of Nov. 11, I was comparing the secondary sewage treatment system, that originated in the early 20th century, and by 1930, this activated sludge treatment was becoming the predominant process used around the world. The processes incorporated in the CRD proposal for McLoughlin Point that he alludes to are just enhancements to this old process and I would compare it to putting lipstick on a pig.

I agree with Mr. Hull’s calculation of 7-8 decentralized plants we would need for the required capacity of 216 megalitres/day in our region, however, I do not agree with his cost calculation. According to extensive research data analyzed by RITE plan advocates, the cost of each plant with a capacity of 25 megalitres/day would be about $50 million, or $400 million for eight such plants. This is based on the costs of several representative existing and working tertiary treatment plants.

If the experienced professionals Mr. Hull is referring to will be providing us, the public that is paying the bills, with trustworthy data on the costs and available modern technologies, there won’t be any need to be discounting their expertise. Furthermore, I would not be so quick to discount the valuable input of an informed and interested public that may need to be keeping tabs on the qualified and experienced professionals that have over many years got us to the stalemate we are now facing at the cost of $60 million with nothing to show for it.

I agree that we cannot retrofit our home pipes with the purple ones for reclaimed water overnight, however, if the reclaimed water will be available in various neighbourhoods, new constructions can start incorporating them, as is the case at Dockside Green. I would be willing to retrofit my home with the purpose pipes if it were available on my street. I think it is safe to say that the reclaimed water would also be useful for watering gardens and parks and golf courses.

And perhaps the most important and immediate benefit of tertiary treated and advanced oxidized reclaimed water would be that we would not have to discharge the chemicals, superbugs, micro-plastics and micro-fibres into the ocean anymore, which is the primary reason why both the federal and provincial governments require us to build the treatment plants. In fact, we would be discharging much cleaner reclaimed water into the ocean than what the McLoughlin Point plant would have done.

The reason is that bacteria, superbugs, micro-plastics and micro-fibers would be removed in the membrane filtration process and the advanced oxidation would disinfect the effluent and remove the vast majority of remaining soluble chemicals.

I would suggest that truly thinking outside the CRD box would likely save us at least $300 million while building eight decentralized, modern tertiary treatment plants with advanced oxidation, followed by safe disposal and energy recovery from the sludge in one or two gasifier plants. I think that the CRD waste of $60 million with nothing to show for it in five years is the true benchmark to which all other options will be compared.

I think that Mr. Hull, as a taxpayer in Oak Bay, won’t have to lose any sleep over  the cost overruns, because I am fully confident that the new plan will cost less than his now defunct McLoughlin Point plan.

In closing, I think it is important that public consultation and public supervision takes place right from the beginning and all along the process as to avoid the waste of time and money hoisted upon the taxpayers of the region by the professionals and the directors of the CRD.

Thomas Maler