November 24, 2013

Events & Actions:

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Video & audio news and presentations:

- CTV News about Willis Point concern about leachate leak
Irwin of Willis Point on CFAX (audio)
CTV news clip about CRD sewage info contracts

At CRD sewage meeting 13 November
Prospect Lake's Fred Haynes
STAG's Carole Witter
RITE Plan/Atwell 
Beth Burton-Krahn 

News articles:

Consulting fees soaring for Greater Victoria sewage project
Sewage project delays could cost $1 million a month, official says
Endless sewage-disposal debate is discharging our dollars (Jim Hume opinion)


Sewage charges outstrip water-usage fees (Gibson)

Events & Actions:


Reconvening of 13 Nov CRD Sewage Committee Meet on Thursday 28 Nov, 1pm:

(No presentations/delegations included In agenda)

4. Technical and Community Advisory Committee Review of Core Area Liquid Waste 
Management Plan Draft Amendment 

5. McLoughlin Point Rezoning 

6. Core Area Wastewater Treatment Program & Budget Update 

7. Hartland North Resource Recovery Centre – Site Acquisition 

8. Service Plans Review Process, Core Area Liquid Waste Service


Environmental Services Committee meeting Wednesday 27 Nov; 9:30am:

- Presentations item included In agenda: submit online form before Monday, 4:30pm

5. Operation of Hartland Landfill January 2014 to June 2016 – Award of Contract 13-1765 (EEE-1349) REPORT

6. Hartland Landfill Environmental Program – 2012-2013 Annual Report (EEP 13-46) REPORT

7. Solid and Liquid Waste Linkages and Integration Opportunities (ERM 13-50) REPORT

8. Hartland North Resource Recovery Centre – Site Acquisition (ERM 13-47) REPORT

9. Update from Solid Waste Advisory Committee REPORT

10. Update from Public and Technical Advisory Committee, Integrated Solid Waste Resource Management Plan (NO REPORT)

11. Update from Roundtable on the Environment REPORT

12. Information Items: (a) Climate Action Program – Quarterly Update (EPR 13-45) REPORT


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Video/audio news clips and interviews:

CTV video news clip: Leachate leak worries Willis Point residents:

SAANICH - CRD is monitoring a leachate leak from the Hartland Landfill while awaiting test results. CTV's Erin Glazier reports:


Irwin of Willis Point on CFAX

Jeff Irwin, President of Willis Point Community Association was on CFAX Monday with Terry Moore to talk about the Hartland leachate leak:



Here's the CTV story from tonight covering these huge sewage contracts for a $2.5m public education campaign and a quintupling of the original Stantec estimate given the CRD Directors back in 2009.

After reading the communications plan, it's pretty obvious that it's designed to create a friendly atmosphere for re-electing the councillors that created this sewage project mess:

What a colossal waste of money.

And, how is it that we have Blackwell telling the Times Colonist she thinks the program is probably over budget but Sweetnam says it's on budget?


CRD Sewage committee meeting 13 November

Prospect Lake's Fred Haynes 

Nov 13 CRD Video

Fred Haynes speaks about behalf on Prospect Lake District Community Associations (PLDCA) and Peninsula Streams Society (PSS) about wanting to be included in the CRD's Technical and Community Advisory Committee:

STAG's Carole Witter

Nov 13th CRD Video

Carole Witter asking the CRD sewage committee to follow the Environmental Social Review paper trail she heavily researched that leads to a dead end at the CRD (no evidence of any decision to forgo the ESR).

It appears that staff made a decision on their own when it is the CRD Directors that are the decision makers. Naughty.


RITE Plan/Atwell 

Nov 13 CRD Video

I went to the CRD meeting on the 13th, to read the CRD Directors a letter that I wrote to both Minister Polak and Oakes to let them know the process behind the CRD's Amendment No.9 to its sewage plan was seriously flawed. I gave them a heads up about this on September 9th in an earlier letter warning the Minister the CRD was paying lip service to the guidelines for establishing a committee and not taking them seriously.

The CRD stacked the committee with additional engineers and other "rubber stampers" and rifled through the agenda in record time without showing the members any detailed designs which we know the CRD has paid for. They had to make do with a verbal description of the changes to the sewage project.

In forming the committee, Denise Blackwell rejected critics of the plan who applied (I figured there was no chance and didn't even bother) and she failed to invite any community associations and environmental groups affected by the project.

She even initially rejected the nominee from the Esquimalt Chamber of Commerce and refused to provide a reason in writing simple based on bias (Carole was the nominee). Without a written denial, the CRD reluctantly accepted Carole onto the committee and that's a whole other story...



Meagan Klassen speaks on behalf of the Lyle Street Action Committee about the barging loophole she discovered in the CRD's bylaw:

Her speech gets off to a very funny start. Enjoy!



John Newcomb talks about safety issues and the inadequacies of the CRD's triple bottom line.


Beth Burton-Krahn 

Beth Burton-Krahn explains the difference between mitigation and amenities to the CRD sewage committee:


News stories:

Consulting fees soaring for Greater Victoria sewage project

NOVEMBER 19, 2013 
Greater Victoria taxpayers are paying millions in ballooning consultant’s fees for the region’s sewage treatment megaproject.

Engineering firm Stantec has billed taxpayers $7.3 million for consulting and program management on the Capital Regional District sewage project since 2009, according to documents obtained by the Times Colonist under freedom of information law.

And that’s only the beginning of the fees.

Stantec has approval to double its costs to $14 million by the end of this year.

The engineering firm’s total bill to taxpayers is now projected to reach more than $43 million by the end of the project in 2018, according to additional figures contained in a staff report to the Seaterra civilian commission overseeing the project.

Commissioners will vote on authorizing more money for Stantec on Friday.

CRD staff say the total amount is more likely be $39.56 million, because Stantec is on track to underspend its allowance in 2013.

As it stands, Stantec holds one of the most lucrative contracts in one of the most expensive capital projects in Greater Victoria’s history.

The consulting fees amount to 5.5 per cent of the project’s $783-million total budget, which is far more than the one per cent of budget publicly estimated by the former head of the CRD project when the Stantec deal was signed in 2009.

“I’m alarmed at the costs,” said Saanich Coun. Vic Derman, who sits on the CRD sewage committee that originally approved Stantec’s contract and has twice approved its budget. “Maybe I missed something, but I didn’t think it would be that high.”

Though consultants are necessary on a such a large project, it’s upsetting so much money is spent on one company when politicians are also told it’s too costly to allow an independent analysis of the project or search for new technologies, Derman said.

Stantec chose in 2009 to lock down a long-term consulting gig with the CRD, rather than wait through years of uncertainty to bid on constructing the treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt or the sludge facility at Hartland Landfill in Saanich.

The contract made Stantec ineligible to bid on any other part of the megaproject.

But it also put the firm in a position to profit from the controversial sewage project’s many years of drama, which involved delays, altered plans, reconsiderations and other twists and turns that required Stantec’s services.

A Stantec team of 20 has helped CRD staff research technical sewage issues, contribute to reports, prepare procurement documents, and provide engineering and design advice.

“They are very important because they are the only technical consultant we have on contract at the moment,” said Albert Sweetnam, the sewage project director. “We rely on them extensively.”

Some of the Stantec advice has led to key decisions on the project’s size and scope. Other advice, such as a report used to recommend the application of sewage sludge to land, has been shot down by local politicians.

Stantec did not return a request for comment.

“Stantec is not being overpaid,” said Sweetnam. “I’ve looked at the rates. The rates are reasonable.”

The growing bill is another example of strain on the project’s $783-million budget.

Politicians repeatedly aired concerns last week that extra costs for incinerators, barging and other unforeseen expenses may lead to cost overruns borne entirely by local taxpayers.

“Probably four years ago when the budget was negotiated it was a pretty good budget, but as time marches on it might not be adequate,” said CRD sewage committee chairwoman Denise Blackwell.

“Up until this point, there’s been lots of contingency built in, and we were hoping those contingencies would cover it. But they’ve been eaten away.

“I used to be quite convinced it would come in on budget, and I don’t know if I am anymore.”


Sewage project delays could cost $1 million a month, official says

NOVEMBER 22, 2013 
Greater Victoria’s sewage project is close to falling behind schedule and incurring a million dollars a month in extra costs, says the civilian commission overseeing the project.

Chairwoman Brenda Eaton said Friday that with politicians yet to authorize rezoning for a treatment plant at McLoughlin Point, staff have been conducting a line-by-line analysis of the $783-million budget and schedule to examine the situation.

“We estimate that a one- month delay is $1 million,” Eaton said.

“So if the decision is delayed and delayed [on rezoning] and it starts pushing against our schedule to be able to deliver in 2018, then it’s about one million a month. We’re getting very close to that.”

Specifics of how that $1 million was calculated were not immediately provided.

A rezoning deal that would have allowed a treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt fell apart at a Capital Regional District sewage committee meeting this month.

Politicians were concerned about potential costs arising from an Esquimalt demand to barge construction materials to the site.

They will vote again on the issue Dec. 11. Any deal would need to go before a public hearing and council vote in Esquimalt.

“The decision to defer it … that’s not the end of the world. But if we were to get into months, then it’s about one million a month,” Eaton said of the financial impact of delays.

The main pressures on the $783-million budget are the small remaining contingency fund, and the tight timeline to award contracts, begin construction and finish the entire project by 2018, Eaton said.

“All I can say is we’re starting to feel that we’re going to soon bump up against some of those walls,” she said.

Politicians have also expressed concern that a decision not to allow sewage sludge to be spread as fertilizer on land could force construction of a $38-million incinerator, not covered by the existing budget.

The civilian commission of experts in charge of day-to-day procurement and construction of the project approved millions in new consulting fees on Friday.

The commission voted unanimously to authorize another $7.8 million in consulting work for Stantec.

Stantec has a nine-year consulting contract on the CRD project, and is projected to bill between $40 million and $43 million by 2018.

Project director Albert Sweetnam said the costs are reasonable and within the budget.

The commission did not vote to authorize a $1.6-million communications contract for Acumen Communications Group.

Instead, it approved $200,000 for Acumen until February. Acumen had previously held a $50,000 public relations contract that expired this month, but Eaton said the new work is different in size and scope.

“We just needed a bit more time to finalize the plan and finalize all of the numbers,” Eaton said.


Endless sewage-disposal debate is discharging our dollars

NOVEMBER 21, 2013 06:13 PM (published in paper 24 Nov)
In the Capital Regional District, we could be on the way to a world record in procrastination in the guise of democratic debate. While other cities and districts appear able to assess and resolve problems with vigour and common sense, we dwellers on the southern slopes of Vancouver Island stumble about reciting a need for “further discussion” before deciding anything.

For example: The Capital Regional District was born in 1966 with a multitude of problems waiting to be resolved, two of serious concern. Number 1 on the agenda was the need for a new general hospital to replace aging downtown St. Joseph’s; number 2 was to develop a regional sewage collection and disposal system.

Longtime readers with good memories may recall the ferocity of the hospital debate, with a group of doctors lobbying for a new hospital to be located on the site of the existing St. Jo’s. A stronger lobby insisted any new facility be built away from “the city,” which was already well serviced by Royal Jubilee.

The debate raged — and “raged” is the correct word — for several years ending only after a high-priced consulting firm from Toronto was hired to weigh the pros and cons and make suggestions. It recommended the new hospital be built to accommodate population growth in the western sector. In the early 1980s, talk ended and construction began on Victoria General near Helmcken Road. It was never questioned a new hospital was needed, but it took several years to decide where.

The few years debating hospital location turned out to be speedy when compared to the debate on sewage disposal. It started in 1966, with an engineering report pinpointing dozens of small outfalls dumping contaminated effluent in streams and on beaches. It resulted in the building of major trunk lines to funnel sewage to Clover and Macaulay points, where major outfalls extended kilometres out to sea. Scientists and engineers assured the CRD tidal currents would provide ultimate disposal treatment. The CRD thought the decision to go ahead backed by such strong scientific and technical support would end debate. It didn’t.

Before the new system came on line, it was being condemned because it discharged raw sewage into the ocean and let nature perform ultimate disposal treatment. Many health officials, environmentalists and marine scientists still feel strongly that sewage treatment as ordered by federal and provincial authorities is arbitrary, wrong and a ridiculous waste of money.

With federal and provincial heavyweights ordering treatment before disposal, many considered the debate over. It was instead merely taking a breather before moving to Phase 2 — where to build the treatment plant and the accompanying incinerator required to make it state of the art. The order to go to full onshore treatment was easily made and given, but the NIMBY syndrome came quickly to the fore. The most ardent environmentalists want treatment with incineration — as long as the treatment plant and sludge-burning incinerator are far distant from their neighbourhood.

I do not pretend to be an expert in what we now call wastewater disposal (because sewage is an unpleasant word and the “sludge” it creates in its final stages even more so). But I do, as always, have a question or two.

The city of New York is home to 14 wastewater (read sewage) plants. Together they treat 4.9 billion litres of waste a day. The city’s publicity department tells us “this amazing [system of] treatment that cleans our wastewater consists of 6,000 miles of sewer pipes; 135,000 sewer catch basins over 495 permitted outfalls for the combined sewer overflows, and 95 pumping stations to move everything to the 14 treatment plants” for conversion to “sludge.” The final product, water- and odour-free and “waferlike,” is then returned to the land as fertilizer.

The New York city wastewater-disposal system is massively larger than ours, and so is the disposal problem. But consider: Since 1986, when the U.S. federal government banned ocean disposal of sewage generated biosolids, New York has built 33 sewage sludge and waste incinerators to feed 14 plants. (There are 170 incinerators in all in the U.S., with “a significant number” on the West Coast.) They all use the end product as fertilizer — a procedure rejected in the CRD, where one multimillion-dollar incinerator is now deemed essential, but with site and final disposal of the end product yet to be decided.

“Further discussion” is needed to give the lie to the old saying “talk is cheap.” Just wait until we get the bill.



Sewage charges outstrip water-usage fees (Gibson)

NOVEMBER 24, 2013 
Re: “Water consumption down, rates up,” Nov. 21.

The story about a “modest” 1.8 per cent increase in Capital Regional District water rates failed to mention the sewer surcharges tacked onto these water bills, which on my latest water bill from the City of Victoria amounted to $230 for the four summer months. I now pay more for sewage surcharges than I pay for actual water use.

Victoria misses no chance to lay the brunt of our unnecessary sewage treatment project costs squarely on the shoulders of water users, including those who use extra water in the summer for gardens. Saanich, at least, is honest enough to base its sewage surcharges on winter water usage only, so as not to unfairly burden gardeners whose extra water use in summer has no impact on sewage treatment capacity.

In two years, Victoria has increased its basic water rate by nearly 20 per cent and its surcharges for sewage treatment have gone up by about 45 per cent. And you can expect more of the same.

We have already spent $7 million in consultants’ fees for the second sewage treatment proposal, and we haven’t yet put a shovel in the ground. As Saanich Coun. Vic Derman observed the other day, it is unsettling indeed to think that we can spend this much on consultants when we are told we cannot afford a much less expensive cost/benefit or environmental-impact assessment to see whether this mega-project will really provide a net benefit to our environment.

Graydon Gibson