New group to tackle sewage options

Oak Bay joins Victoria and Saanich to from working group for wastewater treatment

Ted Robbins

The Capital Regional District is expected to make it official – a working group of the three east side municipalities to scope out waste water treatment options for Saanich, Oak Bay and Victoria.

The CRD board is expected to approve a Wastewater and Resource Recovery Select Committee that would formalize discussions already underway between the municipalities of Saanich, Victoria and Oak Bay to identify wastewater treatment options as part of a comprehensive regional solution.

“The first thing we need to do is our due diligence – best practices sounding, where you take two, three months to simply get an independent group who have an unimpeachable reputation to show us the best of what’s available for sewage treatment and resource recovery,” said Coun. Vic Derman, who sits on the CRD’s waste water management committee.

Nils Jensen, Oak Bay Mayor and CRD chair, said the working group would look very much like the one created last November by Colwood, Esquimalt, Langford, View Royal, and Songhees Nation.

“There will be meetings in the three communities. There won’t be a lot of duplication, we’ll be sharing a lot of information,” Jensen said. “It allows us to work together and reach out to residents. There will be a lot of options on the table.”

The committee would be supported by the CRD and municipal staff to develop and evaluate sub-regional treatment options for their communities, conduct costing exercises and work with other municipalities to optimize existing conveyance infrastructure.

A series of open houses and an online survey is currently underway to gauge resident input as well, Jensen said.

“It’s a matter of balancing the three issues, environmental, economic and social, and what are the relative impacts,” Jensen said. “Until we get the costing of each of the options it’s going to be difficult for people to provide a meaningful opinion.”

Derman has been attempting to get the CRD board to look at alternative treatment technology and applications for the better part of seven years. He said last week’s motion to explore those options was a long time coming.

“We really need to get people the best environmental benefit and financial bang for your buck. So we need to look at waste streams. If we do things properly, there are some really exciting prospects,” Derman said.

Derman envisions a waste plant that receives not only sewage, but kitchen scraps and other garbage now destined for the Hartland landfill.

“We have the potential to cause transformative change in the region. If it doesn’t, you’ve done your homework. If the answer is positive, you could be making remarkable changes,” Derman said.

The CRD is required by federal legislation to treat its sewage to a secondary or greater level by 2020, and the province has set a sewage treatment deadline of 2018. Some directors are pushing for an extension of the provincial deadline to 2020 as well.

Last spring, the project to develop a regional wastewater treatment facility at McLoughlin Point came to a grinding halt after Esquimalt denied required rezoning and the province declined to intervene. Work was meant to begin by the end of July 2014 on the projected $788-million plant.

In August, Oak Bay council asked staff to begin discussions with the municipality of Saanich and City of Victoria to collectively come up with a “Plan B.” In early October CRD directors approved a new framework to gauge the value of subset wastewater treatment options.

The province has committed $248 million, while the federal government has offered $253.4 million towards the final project cost contingent on meeting specific timelines. Additional costs are the CRD’s responsibility.

Visit the CRD website at crd.bc.ca/project/wastewater-planning for more details.

-with files from Daniel Palmer

 

cvanreeuwyk@oakbaynews.com