August 25, 2013

Click here to join us on Facebook


Dockside Green's Real Capacity
Comment: There is still time to improve our sewage plan (Atwell)

Editorial: Keep close eye on sewage plans
- Mayor Leonard on CFAX 19 August


- Latest technologies could provide new sewage plan (Bodenberg)
- Sewage plan needs review (Dickson)
Public consultation needed on sewers (Duck)
CRD should consider tertiary treatment (Farquharson)
- Sewage-treatment cost estimate is ridiculous (Kent)
Many mysteries remain unanswered (Li)
Look for smaller, smarter sewage system (May)
CRD should revisit Derman’s motion (Newcomb)



Dockside Green's Real Capacity

Richard Atwell
August 23, 2013 

How bad is the CRD's math?

CRD staff say deploying Dockside's "technology" region wide would cost $2B. 

This 3 min video demonstrates that they are off by at least $1 billion dollars right off the bat because they don't know the true capacity of the plant:

The capacity is even stated in the VanCity reports:

This error is so unbelievably HUGE is brings into question every statement ever made by staff about Dockside. They also haven't explained to CRD Directors how much it would cost to expand as a percentage of the construction cost.

CRD Directors keep asking about the full capability of Dockside and CRD staff keep coming back with carefully worded replies and restate it would take 600 plants every time (last time it was 572 plants to be exact). That's a ludicrous statement and shows such a complete lack of imagination.

So what has to be accounted for because it will likely cost more than simply multiplying as I did in the video to get $300m.

First, the water saving devices that were installed at Dockside are low flows, etc and these have not been deployed region-wide.

However, the Zenon membranes that Dockside uses only account for 5% of the capital cost which makes you wonder how little this technology could cost to when rolled out in a decentralized system.

This is a highly scalable technology and consider that Dockside was customized using off the shelf parts. You can built it multiple ways to suit your needs.

The CRD are fools for not looking into this is the one that generates reals benefits: re-use of water!


Comment: There is still time to improve our sewage plan (Atwell)

AUGUST 22, 2013 (Op-Ed at top of page A11)
Proponents of the Capital Regional District’s sewage plan continue to confuse “how to do it” with “when to do it” by labelling critics as opponents of “when” in order to distract the public from the obvious deficiencies with the plan itself.

There is plenty of time to meet the deadlines and improve this plan. In fact, the whole plan can be thrown out the window and still meet the deadline.

The CRD project has a planned completion date of March 2018. The federal deadline for implementing sewage treatment is Dec. 31, 2020.

The difference is a nearly three-year window that can be used to improve the plan while still meeting the deadline. Consider that the original project, which was highly exploratory in nature, was developed between 2007 and 2010, and we now have the benefit of hindsight.

Continued protests are justified because the plan is just as awful as it was when it was signed off in 2010. The bulk of letters to editors, polls and interviews continue to indicate that the plan is not just in need of a tweak here and there, but deeply flawed.

Let’s start with the moniker “land-based sewage treatment.” The CRD plans to build a new marine outfall at McLoughlin Point that by the CRD staff’s own analysis will continue to flush 50 to 90 per cent of chemicals into the ocean.

The ocean easily assimilates the organic material in our sewage and is why the CRD built the existing system, but in the 40 years since the deep marine outfalls were constructed, our sewage has become a chemical cocktail. To remove these toxins requires a higher level of treatment than the CRD will be implementing.

The CRD plan is for secondary treatment, when many jurisdictions are moving to tertiary disinfected systems, having been on secondary systems for decades. Greater Victoria, it appears, will be catching up, only to fall behind as soon as the plant becomes operational.

The McLoughlin site being only 1.4 hectares, will require substantial changes to the CRD’s indicated design to meet Esquimalt’s Bylaw 2806. Will any space be left to add tertiary in the future? The CRD’s own peer-review team warned that this site was too small and the chickens will surely come home to roost in this regard.

If, and it’s a big if at this point, that tertiary treatment can be added later, what will be the fate of all that treated water? The plan is to flush that water back out to sea instead of reclaiming it for re-use.

Dockside Green and the Sooke Harbour House both perform tertiary treatment and reuse the water for irrigation and toilet flushing. Where will Greater Victoria be in 20 years? Still on lawn-watering restrictions and flushing this precious water out to sea.

This is why the CRD’s plan, ironically called “The Path Forward,” is so backward.

We need a sewage system now that allows us to develop the network to bring recycled water to every home in the same way that natural gas was eventually deployed throughout the suburbs. The cost will be minimal because road work and storm drain repairs are inevitable.

But an even bigger problem awaits: The federal deadline is looming, but will the CRD’s plan even meet the regulations?

CRD chairman Alastair Bryson announced at the McLoughlin public hearing last July that “elimination of water reuse and a wet-weather plan at Clover Point … and deferral of a decision on a West Shore plant for several decades, this results in a cost saving to all participants of over $180 million.”

The plan for a wet-weather facility was removed by the province in 2010, but federal regulations came in 2012 that ban marine discharges. Without this facility, screened sewage will continue to flush into the ocean at Clover Point during heavy rains.

Many of us opposed to the plan have become environmentalists along the way. In my mind, if you are environmentally minded, secondary sewage treatment with a new marine outfall is not only inadequate in our day and age, it simply won’t provide for the future. We must reject this plan and rethink it.

- Richard Atwell is the campaign organizer for



This is the presentation that the Sewage Treatment Action Group gave to the CRD on August 14th:

Title: "The Road to 2020"

This presentation explains the mess we are in and offers a positive forward thinking solution to get out of it.

This presentation was emailed to all CRD Directors in advance of their decision. So far, no one who voted against Vic Derman has acknowledged received it or having viewed it.

As Kim and Fil from STAG are away travelling, I put together the slides and spoke first. It took 7 people to delivers thanks to the 3-minute speaking limit in force at the CRD these days.



If you missed Robert Bruce on CFAX today you can listen to the podcast:

Robert worked at the Saanich Peninsula Wastewater Treatment Plant (the same one that Judy Brownoff, Denise Blackwell and Dean Fortin love to heap praise upon).

Robert's story is very sad and you'll hear in his own words how working in this secondary sewage treatment plant almost killed him.



Editorial: Keep close eye on sewage plans

AUGUST 20, 2013
It’s almost certain a new Greater Victoria sewage-treatment plant will be built. All the protests and petitions in the world won’t stop it now; it would be a waste of everyone’s time to keep trying.

Another meeting, another vote, another round of point and counterpoint, and we’re still sputtering down the same road. The lines have been drawn, and the two sides are far apart. The two solitudes will never come together.

The evidence, pro and con, is in and has been weighed by those whose job it is to decide, and they have decided. How much the decision was influenced by science and how much by politics is a moot point — those deciding were constrained by the fact that federal regulations prohibit discharging sewage into the ocean, and the province has ordered the region to build a land-based sewage-treatment system.

Protests, demonstrations and gimmicks might provide entertainment to those so inclined, but they will have no effect. Saanich Coun. Vic Derman’s motion at the Capital Regional District’s board meeting last week was a reasoned approach, but still doomed. He called for an independent review of the project, a new call for innovative ideas and a delay from provincial and federal governments. The weighted vote was 41 to 14 against his motion, no surprise to him or anyone else.

Repetition is a great teacher, but it doesn’t do much to change opinions. No matter how many times you repeat it, no matter how loudly you shout it, your argument is not likely to change someone else’s firmly held views, any more than your opponent’s harangues are likely to change yours.

The controversy has had its low points, one occurring at last week’s meeting. A diver tried to play a video showing underwater conditions near the sewage outfall, but someone had altered the file on the CRD computer so that the word “misleading” was superimposed on the video.

That kind of dirty trick is a sign of desperation, like resorting to fists to win an argument when logic and words have failed.

Grandstanding scores points, but doesn’t make points. Tactics and strategies are not evidence.

And evidence is in the eyes of the beholder. It’s your respected scientist against mine. Funny thing about scientists — they have opinions and feelings, too.

It would be better if the issue were clearly black and white, but both sides have valid points, and both sides can find facts to support their arguments.

But barring some extraordinary new evidence or divine intervention, the plant is going to happen.

Tactics might slow the process, but will only delay the inevitable.

That doesn’t mean those concerned about the project should just shut up and go away. The proposed system is large and complicated, with ample scope for controversy and unintended consequences.

Constant public scrutiny can help guard against ill-conceived moves, such as the purchase of the Viewfield Road property in Esquimalt as a site for the sludge-processing component.

The ill-fated attempt to put the biosolids plant in Esquimalt, close to homes and businesses and without consulting the township, was another one of those low points.

We urge more sharing of information with the public and more opportunities for public consultation as the project progresses.

Those who oppose the new sewage-treatment plant have not succeeded in stopping the project, but their opposition has been a positive contribution in many ways. They brought more public scrutiny and forced public officials to be more accountable.

We must accept the sewage plant as fact, but there are many decisions to be made between now and the time the plant begins operation. Those decisions should not be made in the dark.


Mayor Leonard on CFAX 19 August

Frank Leonard was in CFAX hot seat this morning with Pamela McCall:

Have a listen and write a comment rating how well you thought Frank did. He's the big cheese in town and this is a $billion dollar project. Does he have your trust or not?

Somethings he said:

1) The plant is approved

Amendment 8 is already out of date requiring the project be completed by 2016 which is impossible. Changes have to be made to the plan so this is really a moot point.

2) We have to meet the deadlines

We have out of date deadlines to meet and both Ministers (Oakes and Polak) have stated that the dates are flexible especially give that the CRD is planning to submit Amendment 9.

3) There is provincial and federal contributions

It's getting pretty tiring to hear politicians threaten even in veiled attempts that the money will be withdrawn if there is any opposition to the approach taken to date.

Pamela asked him if the funding was at risk and Leonard talked about breaking an agreement. To date all that exist are funding promises.

If he is referring to the contribution agreement it is still not signed: if it were the CRD would no doubt put out another "train has left the station" press release.

4) Leonard said that access to funding was unique. Well, if that's the case it's only because we are on preliminary treatment. When other cities with preliminary and secondary treatment, have to meet the 2030 and 2040 deadlines, their funding will appear because municipalities can't afford to do it alone.

By the 2 minute mark you can already tell he doesn't like this wonder he never shows up for the sewage meetings.

With performances like this, I'm predicting that no municipal candidate in the upcoming election is going to be able to fend off the onslaught from residents...wait until "silly season" begins and other candidates appear.

5) We're getting secondary sewage treatment in a secondary sewage treatment plant and it's not all that complicated.

That's a relief! :-)

Actually, having two plants split over 18km is complicated. That's one of the big complaints and the fact that McLoughlin Pt. is too small as said by the CRD's own peer review.

6) Leonard takes some liberties with the bylaw stalemate. What's approved by the province is high level. The CRD's indicative design doesn't meet Esquimalt Bylaw 2806 and the wrong design went to the three bidders in the RFP. It will at least have to be amended IF the CRD can come to terms with Esquimalt.

What a mess!

7) He called his alternates (Sanders and Hunter before her) "poor folks" for having to attend the sewage committee meetings for 7 years.

With that attitude no wonder the plan turned out this way and no wonder he has no intention of attending himself.

You've got to listen from 5m40s onward as Leonard explains how it's harder for other municipalities with only one rep on the sewage committee to put in the time, when Saanich can send five at once. I'm still confused after hearing it twice.

8) Pipeline route a mystery?

6m25s - Caller Kevin asked about the pipeline route. Leonard says he's not seen the route. BUSTED! The route has been published not only in the reports that he claims he reads but it has been published at since last September.

9) Got to keep an open mind...

12m45s - Esquimalt is challenged after their public hearing? I'd say the CRD is the one who is challenged.

13m50s - Caller Don asked about putting the biosolids plant near William Head. The site was thought about decades ago; it was an academic discussion with no real cost analysis done.

CRD figured out the cost to get the sewage to the Coburg Peninsula.

16m42s - Caller Steve asks complicated question about public hearing processes.

Was it former Quenel Mayor Steve Wallace that called in with that expertise about the process?

Google: Steve Wallace Mayor

18m06s - Caller Josh asks when smart water meters will be installed. I love this question!

Leonard says the billing rate will most likely be based on winter usage. The idea behind this so as not to penalize people who water their lawns in summer. However, the costs are fixed so no matter how it's billed you will be billed as much as necessary to pay for the construction, operating costs and 25-year loans.

Pamela suggests that knowing the costs which are still at this time unknown are important for taxpayers to know. Damn right!

19m27s - Caller John wonders why the plan is approved but Leonard says there is nothing in stone.

Leonard confirms that the plan is approved but he will be listening to other people's suggestions. In other words, ladies and gentlemen, the public consultation process continues to be a sham.

In the end, Leonard states over and over that it's required by law that he listen to the public.

I think he means hear the public and not listen to them. After all it's called a public hearing and not a public "listening". It's a subtle difference but important one when you have to explain to the public why you didn't listen to them when they raised their concerns...

Leachate Background:

Built in 1990, "the leachate line was constructed to divert leachate from local watersheds into the sanitary sewer system. The pipeline is 8.3 km in length. Its path closely parallels West Saanich Road and passes through portions of the Tod Creek and Colquitz Creek watershed areas. The pipeline enters the Saanich sewer system at Markham Road. Discharge of the leachate is controlled through the CRD Sewer Use Bylaw."

Will the leachate continue to flow into this line or will it be diverted at the landfill and put into the 18km gravity return line to McLoughlin? The Mayor didn't know and it's not surprising: Wayne Hunder and Vicki Sanders spend more time at the sewage committee thank Frank Leonard.

Something new to look into although one of the CRD engineers suggested to me back in March that the leachate would probably head down to McLouglin via the return line.

Disclaimer: I called it make a clarification that the pipeline route was indeed published on the CRD website:

The CRD has spent millions on consultants. They know where it's going. When will Saanich residents find out the details from their own mayor and council?



Ben Isitt delivered yet another illogical speech last CRD Board meeting on August 14th. Isitt manages to do this by writing his speech on the fly while other directors are speaking.

This was the same day he raced back from vacation to bump Shellie Gudgeon from her seat one hour into the meeting, voted without hearing 18 of the 22 speakers and then resumed his vacation for another five days.

If Directors could phone in their vote, Isitt would have the CRD on speed dial because he cares not what you write him or read to him or say to him.



Latest technologies could provide new sewage plan (Bodenberg)

AUGUST 19, 2013
Re: “CRD politicians reject call to delay sewage project,” Aug. 15.

What sewage plan? McLoughlin Point has not been rezoned, and Hartland might have to be imposed under legal challenge. The Capital Regional District website is a jumble of reports that don’t jibe, because they were filed by various consultants at different times using disparate assumptions.

The $782 million is the grin on the Cheshire Cat — there is little substance, but it lingers after one variant and then another has left the room.

An alternative to “the plan” is a distributed or decentralized system. The board claims it considered this option and rejected it as “too expensive.” Almost five years ago, the staff did consider building 11 separate units, and they concluded that the cost might be as much as $2 billion. However, the technology was the same old one now contemplated, and costs were swollen by more land purchases and reduced economies of scale.

An abundance of companies boast modern “immobilized cell-reactor technology” and believe they can build a system for less than $782 million. The advantages would include: smaller building footprints, low energy usage, minimal sludge residuals, allowance for growth by adding modules, sequential construction and earthquake protection by dispersal.

As director Vic Derman suggests, first there should be an audit. If “the plan” is proved faulty, we could stage a sort of engineering buskers festival for companies to demonstrate their systems. Professionals would select a winner, but the public would vote, too. We have all gained competence from this experience.

David Bodenberg


Sewage plan needs review (Dickson)


Public consultation needed on sewers (Duck)

Letter by Lynn Duck suggests that Langford's support of CRD sewage plan might be because it wants really fast suburban growth, whereas Colwood's concern about CRD sewage plan might be because it wants more selective, slower suburban growth.


CRD should consider tertiary treatment (Farquharson)

AUGUST 22, 2013
Re: “Keep close eye on sewage plans,” editorial, Aug. 20.

After reading the first three paragraphs, I assumed that an editorial written a year ago had somehow made its way into Tuesday’s paper. For sure, a year later, it’s still a fact that those deciding to build a land-based sewage-treatment system are constrained by a provincial directive to do so and federal regulations prohibiting sewage discharge into the ocean.

But today, it’s also a fact that, over the past year, a well-informed, evidence-based group of environmentalists has emerged, one in sharp contrast to the initial opposition group supporting the current marine-based system. Yet the editorial seemed to be focused exclusively on this initial group.

The more recent group of opponents fully accepts the facts of the need for compliance with provincial and federal demands. But, unlike the editorial, it also considers today’s facts, such as Environment Minister Mary Polak’s invitation for the Capital Regional District to avail itself of flexibility in funding and completion deadlines. Or the fact that taking advantage of this 33-month window of flexibility would allow the CRD to design and build a tertiary system, possibly for less money than its proposed secondary system.

Taking on opponents of the CRD’s plan is fine. What’s irresponsible is to not clearly target today’s opponents and convincingly, if it can, counter their arguments calling for tertiary treatment by 2020.

John Farquharson


Sewage-treatment cost estimate is ridiculous (Kent)

AUGUST 21, 2013

Time and again I have read that the cost of sewage treatment for Victoria is $783 million. We are led to believe that the cost has been determined to within $1 million, which implies an accuracy of one one-thousandth of a billion. It’s not $784 million or $782 million, but $783 million. Such accuracy is ridiculous.

In large capital construction, holding the final cost to within 10 per cent is a substantial feat of estimation. In this case, assuming it won’t be less expensive, it means a total cost of up to $861 million, rounded to the nearest million.

The cost of sewage treatment, regardless of one’s views as to its efficacy, is best discussed in hundreds of millions, rather than even tens of millions. Consequently, it should be expressed as $800 million. From there, it’s a short trip to $1 billion.

Using figures that are excessively accurate is an old trick. It develops confidence in the audience by displaying authority and expertise when neither is present. In reality, proffering a number that is significant to one-10th of one per cent should be seen as foolish.

During the last election, I had an interesting discussion with one of the local MLA candidates. I explained to her my prediction that the cost overrun of the sewage-treatment plan beyond $783 million would be greater than the total cost of the Johnson Street Bridge replacement. Place your bets.

S. Rhys Kent


Many mysteries remain unanswered (Li)

Victoria News 
August 21, 2013 

Haven’t you ever wondered? Are we alone in the universe? What lies beyond the edge of it? Will we ever travel at the speed of light? Will the discovery of the Higgs Boson explain the origins of life? What makes people intelligent?

And why, despite generations of marine science, words of wisdom from our greenest politicians, hundreds of speeches and letters and a huge public outcry, does the Capital Regional District waste water committee still refuse to examine the best available options for sewage treatment?

So many mysteries remain unanswered.

Lingxia Li, 


Look for smaller, smarter sewage system (May)

AUGUST 22, 2013
Our region’s centralized proposal for treating sewage is too big and would operate on a seismically sensitive site. Offering only secondary-level treatment, it would also lose millions annually in operating costs.

As proposed, this is a megaproject that saves almost zero resources.

Smaller, smarter systems exist. Have their total life-cycle costs been evaluated? Comparison shopping at the Capital Regional District, please!

David May
Brentwood Bay


CRD should revisit Derman’s motion (Newcomb)

AUGUST 24, 2013

Re: “Keep close eye on sewage plans,” editorial, Aug. 20.

The editorial ignores evidence and obscures the reality of a Capital Regional District sewage plan gone seriously off the rails. The editorial also downplays the importance of the neighbourhoods that rallied (and won) against the CRD’s secret decision to plunk an unsafe sewage sludge plant in their community. 

Indeed, that sketchy CRD decision has resulted in many more neighbourhoods now being aroused and preparing for the prospect of more of the CRD’s equally bad decisions. 

Blindly accepting statements that our current marine-based sewage treatment system is high-risk meant that the CRD secretly bought Viewfield and told the neighbours that they should be willing to be collateral victims.

However, many scientists agree that we have a low-risk marine-based sewage treatment system, so there is no need for the CRD’s plan to imperil neighbourhoods with high-risk sewage treatment plant, sludge plant and long effluent pipelines. Especially when the CRD also refuses to consider possible Agricultural Land Reserve and Department of National Defence locations, or alternate systems, as Coun. Vic Derman is proposing.

Derman’s motion advocating an examination of distributed sewage plants is a sincere initiative that would also reduce the inequity of saddling one neighbourhood with a high-risk sewage-sludge plant complex, another with high-risk sludge pipelines, while letting the rest of the CRD off the hook. 

The CRD needs to revisit Derman’s motion, or look at many more months of increasingly agitated, angry neighbourhoods.

John Newcomb