Uplands residents reject individual pumps as sewer separation solution

Residents recommend revisit of gravity-fed solution

Nearly 400 pumps moving effluent doesn’t make sense, say some Uplands residents.

They made their feelings clear during a large Oak Bay committee of the whole meeting dedicated to the Uplands sewer separation project Tuesday (Feb. 2) at Monterey Recreation Centre.

Residents filled the centre’s Garry Oak Room to hear the consultant’s report on the options for separating wastewater in the development, and what the public had to say through open houses and online surveys offered this winter.

The Uplands neighbourhood currently has a single-pipe system to convey both sanitary sewage and storm water. During heavy rainfall, the volume of water exceeds the capacity of the system sending overflows into the ocean at the Rutland and Humber pumping stations. Separation is also required to comply with B.C.’s Municipal Wastewater Regulation that municipalities have separate stormwater and sanitary sewers.

“(B.C. Environment) Minister (Mary) Pollack has shown flexibility, she just wants us to get going,” Mayor Nils Jensen said prior to the meeting. “She’s been clear it needs to be done.”

Last May, the district hired McElhanney Consulting Services, which developed six possible options to separate the sewer system. All six assumed easements through private property are not in play. That was just one of the assumptions revisited by Jack Hull, of HJA Hull Water Management Consulting, as a result of public feedback.

Other assumptions revisited include: use of existing easement, maximum trench dept, trench-less technology, onsite storm water management; deeper trenches to utilize gravity fed system and eliminate pumps; and concerns surrounding pumps.

Public consultation boiled down to: Property owners living within the Uplands preferred Option 1, with a deep-gravity new sanitary sewer. Least-preferred was Option 3, which includes 100 per cent pumps.

Property owners living outside the Uplands preferred the opposite.

A profound negative reaction to pumps remains, said communications consultant Kathi Springer. It was a concern reinforced by a panel of Uplands residents during the committee meeting.

“Pumps need attention and we’re going to have 369 more pumps operated by amateurs,” said Geoff Buck. “There are concerns, real or imagined, and we’d like to avoid (pumps) if we can.”

During the meeting, speakers who reiterated a preference for a low-maintenance gravity-fed system, as the current single pipe is, and no additional pumps received hearty applause.

General consensus among speakers from Uplands, and most in attendance appeared to be residents of that neighbourhood, was that inflicting pumps would be an emotional and financial burden. They see Option 3 – with an estimated price tag of $6.9 million for the district and $17,000 to $20,000 for individual homeowners required to purchase pumps (all in this option) – as downloading the cost of the project onto those residents.

Option 1 is estimated to cost $16.4 million for Oak Bay, with far fewer residents requiring pumps.

Speakers also suggested the installation cost and maintenance requirement of pumps to homeowners is underestimated.

The consultant noted homeowner cost estimates were based on a general assessment of the work but would vary dependent on specific sites and potential costs associated with archaeological discoveries.

Pegged early on as a community conversation by Jensen, he hopes the discussion will continue beyond the meeting, neighbour to neighbour.

“There is a lot to absorb,” Jensen said. “There are no quick and easy solutions.”

The Uplands sewer separation project is slated to return to committee during its Feb. 15 meeting at 7 p.m. at municipal hall.

Council hopes to hear more on the ability to use some easements where feasible; potential for narrower space trench excavation – to utilize use more easements or provide deeper trenches without the radius damage required by an excavator.

There are also three hybrid options not addressed by residents during the meeting that feature shallow gravity systems with municipal pump stations and some on-property pumps.

View all options, detailed information about the project and staff reports for the Feb. 2 meeting at oakbay.ca.

 

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