Committee moves sewer project forward

Oak Bay approves geotechnical survey, a first step in sewer separation

Oak Bay will embark on a geotechnical survey after council made it’s first decision in the Uplands sewer separation project while sitting as committee Monday night.

“The more information we can provide the contractor on geotech, the better pricing you will get on the contract itself,” said Jack Hull, the contractor working on the project to separate storm water and wastewater streams in the Uplands neighbourhood of nearly 400 homes.

Currently, during heavy rainfall storm and wastewater overflow into the ocean at the Rutland and Humber pumping stations.

Oak Bay is also required to separate stormwater and sanitary sewers to comply with B.C.’s Municipal Wastewater Regulation.

Uplands resident David Black, owner of Black Press, questioned both the environmental impact of those overflows into the ocean compared with the carbon footprint of adding a second pipe system to the neighbourhood.

Council seemed receptive to Black’s suggestion to meet with MLA Andrew Weaver to discuss the implications. The BC Green Party Leader is also a well known climate scientist.

Unfortunately the outfalls don’t have the required test results to show how much damage is done when they overflow.

“We know there is fecal coliform coming out. We don’t know how much,” said Mayor Nils Jensen. “It’s intuitive to say it’s bad.”

Council agreed to craft a letter to Weaver.

Black, who spoke at length, was among the crowd that overflowed into the hall adjacent to municipal chambers Monday night. Many appeared to be Uplands residents who reiterated the “no pumps” stance.

“No one in the Uplands wants pumps. That’s what we keep hearing again and again,” Black said.

Council faces six technically feasible options: a new deeper, gravity sanitary sewer system, where the existing sewer would carry stormwater; a new, deeper, gravity system for stormwater, where the existing sewer would carry sanitary sewage; a low-pressure sanitary system and existing sewer would carry stormwater; shallow-gravity stormwater sewers, pumped where necessary, and existing sewer would carry sanitary sewage; a new shallow-gravity sanitary sewer system, pumped where necessary, and existing sewer would carry stormwater; a new shallow gravity sanitary sewer system, community pump stations where necessary, and existing pipes would carry stormwater.

The first two options remain most popular – a deeper gravity sanitary sewer with the existing pipes carrying storm water or a deeper gravity storm water with the existing system carrying sewage – with those who chose to address council. Both are estimated to cost around $20 million.

Option three – a pumped low-pressure sanitary system where the existing sewer would carry stormwater – is expected to be the cheapest and was popular among non-residents during early public input. It would require most Uplands residents to purchase, install and maintain pumps.

Marilyn Harris, who also spoke during the special committee meeting Feb. 2 at Monterey Rec, reiterated another key message from Uplands residents. They see the requirement to purchase pumps as offloading costs on the 380 homeowners.

“You can’t drop a bill for $20,000 in my mailbox,” she said. “You don’t have the social license to do that.”

Monday’s meeting ended with committee forwarding information for more potential decisions on options, seeking more information, and more council discussion during its Feb. 22 council meeting at 7 p.m. in municipal hall, 2167 Oak Bay Ave.

Visit oakbay.ca and find the Uplands sewer separation project under Plans & Reports for a list of public input results and technical reports.