Members of the Capital Regional District environmental services committee discussed a proposal to end the current integrated resource management (IRM) process, which aimed to bring the processing of various waste streams, including sewage biosolids, into one facility at Hartland. In a split vote, the committee approved the idea of separating the processing elements, and the CRD board later approved the recommendation.

CRD board votes to end integrated waste procurement process

Separating the processing of the region’s waste streams to be pursued, possibly still at Hartland

In a split vote and following a lengthy and sometimes heated debate over the advantages of continuing on the path toward integrating waste stream processing at Hartland, or moving to eliminate some of the unknowns in the equation, the Capital Regional District board on Wednesday approved ending the current IRM procurement process.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps was the lead proponent of pursuing a different tack for dealing with sewage biosolids, kitchen waste and municipal garbage. Having helped convince enough members of the CRD’s environmental services committee Wednesday that the integrated route was no longer the best plan, Helps quietly made the same arguments to the CRD board, many of whom sat in the earlier meeting and voiced the same appeals to stay the course.

RELATED: CRD staff, Victoria mayor call for shift in direction on sewage sludge processing

Helps said one of the things that turned the tide for her in recent weeks was the fact the preferred proponent for the region’s residuals treatment facility came in with an “under-budget proposal” that produced dry biosolids, a more marketable product than “wet Class A biosolids,” which cannot be placed on land by CRD bylaw.

“We just learned that in early December that our preferred proponent gave us more for less,” she said. “That dry material has a market. It might be that we need to pay to get it taken away, but we don’t know that yet.”

Other items passed by the board included issuing a request for proposals for the “beneficial reuse” of the dried sludge alone, and investigating an in-region (at Hartland) or near-region kitchen scraps and organic waste processing facility. The city’s kitchen scraps are currently shipped to Delta at a cost of $114 a tonne.

Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell, who voted against the IRM motions in every instance, showed the committee and board a video of a $10-million sludge processing machine built in Sedro Wooley, Wash. and funded by the Gates Foundation, that is being manufactured and shipped to Africa to deal with sanitary waste issues. Atwell remarked that the equipment, just one idea he personally investigated, would cost “$200 million less than building a pipeline from McLoughlin Point to Hartland.”

Choosing to end the IRM process shuts the door on such technologies, he said after the board vote.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins and Metchosin Mayor John Ranns also spoke forcefully on how much work has already been done to investigate technology options, and that better ones are out there.

“Concluding our [IRM research] at this time just accentuates to people that we have wasted money and wasted time,” Desjardins said.

Ranns, whose rural municipality will not participate in the sewage treatment program but is part of other waste stream processing in the region, called the move “switching horses in mid-stream” and pointed to uncertainty around the marketability of the end product, dried biosolids. He added that it was “scandalous” to be tossing aside a process that has worked well to find information about potential options.

Supporters of the switch made less emotional comments. Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen said “it felt to some of us like IRM was some sort of fool’s gold we were chasing,” given that its mandate of integrating all waste streams was found to be uncharted territory by a CRD consultant. Langford Coun. Denise Blackwell said in her discussions with industry IRM was deemed to be a “pipe dream.”

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