January 28, 2011




Oak Bay News
January 28, 2011 6:00 AM

CRD staff’s proposal to soften community impact turned down

Oak Bay’s political leaders are not keen to help ease Esquimalt’s sewage treatment plant pain.

Spending millions of dollars towards an amenity fund “is irresponsible,” Coun. John Herbert told Oak Bay council this week.

Council voted unanimously to reject recommendations by Capital Regional District staff that included creation of a community amenity fund – equivalent to one per cent of a portion of the estimated $800 million cost of the sewage treatment system – to help soften the impact of sewage treatment facilities.

The staff report to the CRD’s sewage committee calls for creation of a regional fund to pay for community amenities as compensation to affected municipalities such as Esquimalt, home to the selected treatment plant site of McLoughlin Point. It also said affected municipalities should be able to decide where the money goes.

The sewage committee is currently gathering municipal input on the report.

Report author Tony Brcic, the CRD’s project manager for core area wastewater treatment, wrote that there are a few examples of other jurisdictions paying into amenity funds to mitigate the impact of treatment facilities. He did caution, however, that creation of such a fund could lead to financial expectations when future CRD projects are undertaken in future.

“Nearly everything fixed or renewed (by the CRD) could be considered a community benefit,” said Herbert, Oak Bay’s representative on the sewage committee.

He referred to the consultant’s report that prompted the CRD analysis, which suggested that an amenity fund could pay for parks, trails, sidewalks or public art.

Coun. Nils Jensen pointed out that the push for an amenity fund came from CRD staff and the sewage committee has not yet voted on the idea.

The report said the CRD would commit to including odour and noise control in the project design for the McLoughlin plant – similar criteria were followed when the Currie Road pump station was built in 1992 – and that it be suitably landscaped.

Brcic pointed out that although the above-ground McLoughlin plant will have a visual impact, it is not in a residential neighbourhood.

There was a public outcry when the Currie Road station was built in Oak Bay, he said, to such an extent that the regional district bought up neighbouring homes.

After the station was built, concerns abated and the CRD sold the homes with “no difficulty.”




ARESST: Incredible quote from Saanich News story below: "The long-term goals for Scientific Victoria don’t include re-hashing 
the sewage debate but will likely involve future environmental issues." 


Natalie North
Saanich News (similar story in Victoria News but without sewage reference)
January 27, 2011

Local politics has a new voice that wants decision makers to value science over ballots.

Scientific Victoria was a notable presence at the recent Capital Regional District meeting where, for four hours, emotional presentations were heard about the safety of tanning beds for people under the age of 18.

“Our goal is to encourage, or to advocate for, the consideration of science in local decision-making,” said David Bratzer, founder of Scientific Victoria, a recently-formed citizens’ group that urged the CRD board to base its votes on peer-reviewed medical research.

Bratzer, who is also secretary for the Quadra-Cedar Hill Community Association, launched ScientificVictoria.org two weeks ago.

The organization’s first issue was supporting the bylaw banning underage indoor tanning.

Founding members of the two-pronged group include Karen Dearborn, president of the Quadra-Cedar Hill Community Association. She’ll serve as a strategic advisory board member. Dominic Bergeron, Camosun College biology department chair, holds a PhD in molecular biology and will sit on the scientific advisory board.

Bratzer is recruiting qualified members of all stripes for both boards, including people with masters degrees or higher in hard sciences to join the scientific advisory team as he begins to speak publicly on Scientific Victoria’s second cause, also related to radiation.

“There was credible medical evidence, suggesting that young people are more sensitive to ultraviolet radiation, but the opposite is true with Wi-Fi,” he said. “There is no credible, peer-reviewed evidence showing that long-term exposure to Wi-Fi causes harm.”

Bratzer, who works in law enforcement and gained some notoriety in the past for his stance against drug prohibition, says his motivations for founding the non-partisan organization stem from School District 61’s decision to form a committee devoted to investigating potential health risks of Wi-Fi.

The technology had already been deemed safe by an internal review in the spring. The prospect of completely banning Wi-Fi from schools is both unlikely and potentially very expensive, said school board chair Tom Ferris, who also sits on the Wi-Fi committee.

“I think the fact that someone’s relative is ill is a motivation for wanting to investigate the issue, but it’s not necessarily a reason for (changes to be made),” Ferris said.

Ferris calls the issue, as with any debate involving children “very difficult,” adding that the board will likely be most interested in scientific studies during its decision-making processes.

Karen Weiss, whose teenaged son has “electromagnetic hypersensitivity,” spoke on Jan. 24 to the school board’s committee on Wi-Fi. She wants Wi-Fi replaced with hardwired alternatives. Plenty of research confirms the risks of Wi-Fi, she says, adding that her son’s symptoms, including powerful headaches that come on when he’s near cellular towers, speak for themselves.

“He’s not a magician; he can feel it,” Weiss said. “We’re not making this up. We don’t want this to be happening.”

Bratzer, quoting potential costs associated with replacing the technology, became genuinely concerned that Wi-Fi may be banned throughout the district – even though agencies such as the World Health Organization, Health Canada and every provincial medical health officer have stated there is no empirical evidence that Wi-Fi poses a risk.

“If it starts in our schools then it may actually spread to other institutions, so there is a bit of a concern here that this may be just the beginning,” he said.

The long-term goals for Scientific Victoria don’t include re-hashing the sewage debate but will likely involve future environmental issues. Through Scientific Victoria, he plans to endorse a candidate for Saanich in the November by-election.

Scientific Victoria isn’t the only organization aiming to bring scientific research to the forefront of policy-making. Last October, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada launched PublicScience.ca, a website devoted to the inclusion of scientific research in federal politics. “They’re doing on a local level, what we’re doing on a national level, so we’re working in parallel here and I think it’s an excellent idea,” said Ray Lauzier, chair of the science advisory committee for the institute. “In one way it’s neat to see that there’s a local initiative but, in another way, it’s distressing to see there’s a need for a local initiative.”

PublicScience.ca was formed in part as a way for scientists in the civil service to share information with the public. In recent years, there has been a movement within government to channel information through communications specialists. That has resulted in some information not being released creating the perception that politicians are manipulating how scientific work is being made public.

Back at a local level, Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard is open to hearing more from Scientific Victoria, though issues rooted in science are more likely to concern the CRD, he said, rather than be specific to Saanich. Leonard also points to the often murky boundaries between hard science and social science, as in the debate over recycling in the 1980s. Some residents were strongly opposed to the blue box program based on what were seen at the time as high operational costs relative to the environmental benefit.

“The community value was that they didn’t want to put their pop bottles and wine bottles into the landfill anymore. So, is that science or economics, and isn’t economics a science?” Leonard said.



Edward Hill
Oak Bay News
January 27, 2011
Click here to send letter to Oak Bay News

Langford Coun. Denise Blackwell is back at the helm of the Capital Regional District’s sewage treatment committee, although somewhat grudgingly, she admits.

Blackwell is chairing the core area liquid waste committee, a body steering the $790-million project with 14 municipal politicians who don’t always see eye to eye.

CRD board chair Geoff Young asked Blackwell to head up the committee and it took some convincing. Saanich Coun. Judy Brownoff  stepped down as chair due to the workload.

“I’ve done it before. I know it’s a lot of work. It’s also a job that doesn’t get a lot of credit,” Young said. “It’s an expensive project. Being chair involves spearheading the spending of a lot of money.”

Blackwell is a good pick, Young said, as she understands the complexity of the project and is from a municipality that isn’t sited for sewage treatment facilities, giving her a measure of neutrality.

As of now, the CRD has settled on a centralized treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt, the site of a former oil tank farm, with a biosolids treatment facility at Hartland Landfill.

The central plant location could change depending on treatment technology and methods proposed during the procurement phase, Young noted, although he suspects McLoughlin is the most likely outcome.

“The McLoughlin site is not absolutely certain, but at this point it is the selected site,” he said. “We are open to the possibility with new technology there might be more, smaller sites.”

Although the CRD has general funding commitments from senior governments for two-thirds of the project cost, Young said this year they would like to nail down specific, signed agreements.

“We have a general commitment on the political level. We don’t have signed on the dotted line agreements,” he said. “We have had assurances. The CRD board is comfortable the funding will be there.”

That comfort has allowed the CRD to spend $15 million in planning since 2006, with $6 million coming from the provincial and federal governments.

Young said the project is viable now, although planners are always seeking ways to lower the price tag, such as looking at other sites for the biosolids facility, closer to the main plant.

Another key task of the sewage committee this year is working with the province to establish a governing commission for the project, separated from the CRD.

“The provincial government wants the commission 100 per cent away from the (CRD) board once we are into procurement,” Blackwell said. “The board wants one or two voting members on the commission.”

Young pointed out that funding and governance are intertwined issues – senior governments giving hundreds of millions will have a say how the project is managed. The CRD board will need to wrestle with decisions related to what degree the commission controls the project and how far the CRD is removed.

“Certainly before responsibility is passed over, the funding will have to be in place,” Young said. “But it’s not all up to us, our funding partners will have views. It is a case of deciding what is acceptable to them and us.”

Check out www.wastewatermadeclear.ca for information and updates on the regional sewage treatment project.