Oak Bay to pay lion’s share for sewage treatment

Uplands storm water drainage increases flow for the municipality

An antiquated pipe system in the municipality of Oak Bay may result in residents paying the largest share of the cost of the new sewage treatment facility slated for completion in 2018.

The Core Area Wastewater Treatment Program calls for a wastewater treatment plant to be constructed at Esquimalt’s McLoughlin Point, where biosolids would be extracted and pumped 18 kilometres to the Hartland Landfill in Saanich. The material would then be dried in a biosolids energy centre and placed in cement kilns, which in turn would be housed at Cadboro Bay. The total project cost is estimated at $782.7 million with two-thirds of the funding coming from the provincial and federal governments.

The CRD however, needs to contribute $281 million – approximately one third of the total cost – to the project. If a proposal before the CRD is approved, those costs would be divided on a formula that is based on usage (flow levels) projected to 2030. Based on those flow levels, Oak Bay would pay the highest amount of any municipality – an estimated $391 a year per household.

But the flow levels may not be a true reflection of the sewage wastewater generated by the municipality.

“In the Uplands area we have a single pipe system in which storm water is routed to the same line that carries waste water,” said Dave Marshall, director of engineering services for Oak Bay. “That obviously increases the flow levels for the municipality.”

But the problem extends to other parts of the system as well. Even in those parts of the municipality where a two-line system exists, there is still the problem of storm water seeping into older wastewater lines. “It’s a matter of inflow and infiltration,” said Marshall. “But seepage into lines isn’t unique to Oak Bay, it’s a problem wherever older sewer lines are in place.”

All municipalities, including Oak Bay, are currently reviewing their systems in an effort to bring them in line with the CRD’s wastewater management plan. That may require a twinning of the Uplands pipes and an upgrade of other lines but a final decision on the matter has not been formally adopted.

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen said that the municipal council is well aware of the situation and has wrestled with some options for minimizing the flow of storm water into the sewage lines.

“It’s obvious that we need to work quickly to address the storm water issue and to upgrade our systems generally. I’d like to see the greater use of rain-gardens or other systems that move storm water to the ocean, but right now we’re looking at a plan that employs more traditional methods.”

Until the work is done, Oak Bay residents will be paying a higher share of both the capital costs and the annual operating costs of the sewage treatment system. And it’s not about the number of homes in the area. Although Uplands is home to less than seven per cent of the total number of residences in Oak Bay, about 20 per cent of the municipality’s surface area is drained into the Upland’s sewage lines.

The entire Wastewater Treatment Plan has garnered criticism from a number of quarters, most notably the Association for Responsible and Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment, a group of marine scientists, public health officers and others. They claim that the project is politically and not environmentally motivated, and that the current system, in which screened sewage is pumped into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, is both safe and effective.

The funding split was approved at the Oct.10 meeting of the Liquid Waste Management Committee and will go to the CRD board for approval.

More information on the Wastewater Treatment Plan can be found at crd.bc.ca/wastewater/madeclear.

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