Regional sewage forum driven by grassroots efforts

  • May. 18, 2011 5:00 a.m.

A community-driven forum is taking shape that will explore the Capital Region’s sewage treatment system.

While Esquimalt residents have led organization efforts, they have been reaching out to more than 30 resident associations in Greater Victoria to generate interest in the public discussion.

It’s the first time a regional community-driven forum on the subject has been organized, and is being billed as “Understanding Wastewater Management in Victoria, Do we have the right plan?”

Already, several groups appear keen to be part of the initiative, said organizer Karen James, co-chair with the Esquimalt Residents Association.

She said she felt compelled to try and open the door to a regional dialogue because of the astronomical billion-dollar price tag associated with new sewage treatment facilities.

“Nobody wants to talk about human waste,” James noted.

Several non-partisan speakers have already been lined up, including University of Victoria biologist Jack Littlepage and Seattle-based oceanographer Andrea Copping, Dr. Richard Stanwick, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Island Health Authority, University of Victoria health economist Rebecca Warburton, Bruce Cuthbert, director of the Esquimalt Residents Association, as well as several members of the Association for Responsible and Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment, such as retired chemical engineer Bob Furber, former B.C. medical health officer Shaun Peck, and association chair John Bergbusch.

The forum isn’t a not-in-my-backyard initiative, and will allow residents to get beyond the “emotional information” that is currently out there, said James.

“We wish for the facts to speak for themselves after this.”

The forum takes place May 26 from 7 to 9 p.m. at S.J. Willis educational centre, 923 Topaz Ave.

emccracken@vicnews.com