Oak Bay wades into Uplands sewage issue

Council investigates options to separate septic and storm water in Uplands

Council won’t outright dismiss working on easements and will concentrate on appropriate public engagement as it slogs through the ongoing work to separate septic and storm water in Uplands.

To achieve the legislated task of separating the currently combined wastewater system, Oak Bay engaged Jack Hull for the project and he summarized work to date, along with making some recommendations to council during the committee of the whole meeting Feb. 16.

Council, sitting as committee which means decisions are only recommendations to council, agreed to a number Hull’s recommendations. If the recommendations are ratified by council, Oak Bay would develop a request for proposals (RFP) for a pre-design study to examine options for sewer separation in Uplands.

Hull outlined options for consideration: Options to be considered include a gravity sanitary sewer system, the existing combined sewer would convey storm water; a gravity system for storm sewers, the existing sewer would convey wastewater; a low-pressure system for wastewater; a low-pressure system for storm water; a combination of gravity and pressure systems, and any other innovative approach envisaged by the consultant.

Hull also suggested design concepts should exclude construction on easements on private property which would disrupt mature trees, gardens and other landscaping.

Council was wary of outright denying any potentially required options for construction, stating that design concepts should attempt to minimize non-trenchless construction and easements on private property which would involve destruction of fences, hedges and, in particular, healthy, mature trees.

All options should be analyzed and compared on an economic, social and environmental basis, Hull said. Concepts should include life cycle costs and be developed to a level that would allow council to apply for government funding and move on to detailed design.

A critical component, council and Hull seem to agree, is to develop a communication and public engagement program. Some recalled 2010 when a low pressure system project that included pumps on private property and had some government funding in place, was abandoned due to public opposition.

At that time one of the questions was whether the pumps would work during a power outage, cited as a regular occurrence in Uplands. Hull noted BC Hydro would be asked for statistics from the past few years on frequency and length of outages as well as determining how long pumps can run during an outage.

Hull also offered some history, pointing out that the provincial government, through its master sewer regulation, mandated long ago that all combined sewer and storm water overflows in the province must be eliminated. The system in Uplands is the original and dates back more than a century.

The estimated cost for the RFP process is $10,000 to $12,000, which will come from the sewer fund budget and be funded by a combination of sewer user fees and property taxes.

All decisions made as a committee are crafted as recommendations for council to approve or alter at an official council meeting.