October 5, 2014

Audio-Visual News:
Mayors question sewage program - Seaterra still at work without direction
- The RITE Plan's Youtube Channel
News stories:
Sewage plan eludes CRD
Speaking out on sewage treatment
Courage, not lip service, please
The public deserves to be consulted (Brown)
Seaterra’s job is to implement plan (Sweetnam)



Audio-Visual News:

Mayors question sewage program - Seaterra still at work without direction


RITE Plan's Youtube Channel

Frequently updated with the most vital and interesting snippets that show the best and the worst of the CRD's sewage planning process

News stories:

Sewage plan eludes CRD

A de facto referendum on the issue is gaining momentum.

FOCUS Magazine

Where did the sewage treatment issue go? With the apparent collapse of the CRD’s $782-million centralized sewage treatment plan, the issue seems to have disappeared. Problem solved? Hardly.

Faced with being unable to use Esquimalt’s McLoughlin Point, the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee (sewage committee) instructed CRD staff last summer to prepare terms of reference for an “options study.” The proposed terms of reference for that study were delivered by CRD staff at a meeting of the CRD’s sewage committee on September 10.

Oddly, the staff report argued to keep a central treatment plant at McLoughlin as one of the options to be considered by the study. Tellingly, the report’s recommendations were developed without any non-CRD input, and that brought a rain of criticism down on the CRD at the September 10 meeting.

John Farquharson, a director of the Sewage Treatment Action Group (STAG), told CRD directors, “This study is not designed for success; it is designed for failure, along with a waste of $400,000 of taxpayers’ money and the loss of another 10 months.”

Norma Brown worried that the CRD was repeating past mistakes and complained, “To my disappointment and anger…I do not see that vital community focus. Instead I see a terms of reference and rationale to, again, maintain the status quo for this project.”

Irwin Henderson told the committee he had served as chief of staff for two Royal Commissions, managed two studies of cost overruns on utility and engineering projects, and was part of the team that built the BC Energy Project and the environmental assessment processes.

Henderson described sewage treatment projects as “high risk, high complexity, and high exposure.” As well, he said, the CRD’s plan is “subject to multiple vetoes,” a circumstance, he suggested, the CRD had overlooked. “Projects with multiple vetoes…must be treated differently, and the [CRD] is not in 100 percent control. The fact that this was not recognized has led to mistakes. Unilateral tactics are severely counterproductive in multiple-veto projects.”

The CRD needed to approach the options study with that in mind, Henderson argued. “This has got to be transparent, independent and a very public process. It needs to be all-inclusive.”

A formal letter to the CRD from the mayors of Langford, Colwood, View Royal and Esquimalt, and Chief Ron Sam of Songhees Nation, also argued that the terms of reference for the study were inadequate. They noted the report dismissed new possible sites, ignored the possibility of net revenues from a distributed plan, and failed to make the proposed independent manager of the options study independent enough. The letter writers urged more and earlier involvement of municipalities, First Nations, and the public in identifying issues and solutions.

CRD directors referred the terms of reference for the options study back to staff with directions to address the issues raised in the letter, as well as other amendments. A number of directors urged speed, but the earliest date a revised terms of reference for the options study could likely be delivered would be at the next sewage committee meeting on October 8.

Since then, local politicians have been quiet.

It appears, though, that voters may be getting a de facto referendum on the issue in the upcoming civic elections.

In Saanich, Richard Atwell is running against Mayor Frank Leonard. Leonard has been a vociferous supporter of a central treatment plant at McLoughlin Point. Atwell, a computer software engineer, is a director of STAG and a well-known advocate for a distributed enhanced tertiary system, as well as a severe critic of the CRD’s flawed process and lack of transparency.

In Oak Bay, incumbent Mayor Nils Jensen is now supporting sewage treatment—but only if its done at a central plant at McLoughlin Point. Oak Bay Councillor Cairine Green has decided to challenge Jensen—and she pointedly differs with him on attempting to force a central treatment plant on Esquimalt.

In the City of Victoria, Councillor Lisa Helps is challenging Mayor Dean Fortin. Fortin has been a staunch supporter of the McLoughlin Point plan; Helps is calling for a “better plan.”

So far, there’s no pro-McLoughlin candidate running in Esquimalt’s mayoralty race. Mayor Desjardins is being challenged by former Victoria Deputy Police Chief John Ducker, but Ducker’s position on McLoughlin Point agrees with that of Desjardins.

Some non-incumbent candidates for council positions are also critics of how the current CRD directors have handled the sewage treatment planning process thus far.

So whether candidates like it or not, at least some voters will be using the opportunity to cast a vote for or against the CRD’s McLoughlin-based treatment plan.

Unlike other major projects requiring the borrowing of funds, the BC Liberals 2003 Environmental Management Act exempts sewage treatment projects from the usual requirements to hold a referendum. Municipalities and regional districts are, however, required to follow guidelines calling for “comprehensive review and consultation with the public.” This consultation is required on a number of issues, including the financial impact on taxpayers. The intention of the regulations seems clear: since there is no avenue to appeal ministerial approval of a liquid waste management plan, consultation must occur before ministerial approval is sought.

The CRD did no public consultation on a treatment plan that had a single, central treatment plant before seeking ministerial approval. It would appear that consultation could now take place on November 15.

- David Broadland is the publisher of Focus Magazine.


Speaking out on sewage treatment


Winner of letter writing contest.

In the July edition of Focus, a concerned citizen ran an advertisement calling on the CRD to perform a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis that would compare the CRD’s proposed plan for McLoughlin Point, the current screened sewage discharge system, as well as one of the variations of expanded treatment being proposed by region citizens.

To encourage the public to write to their political representatives and request such an analysis, a prize of $1000 was offered for the letter “judged to present the best case,” with all letters received eligible for a draw for a $300 prize.

The winner of the draw is David Ferguson. The following letter, written by Brian Belton, was chosen for the $1000 prize. Belton also sent his letter to the federal and provincial Ministers of Environment and the Chair of the CRD Board.

Waste not, want not

By Brian Belton

My dear deceased mother, whom you may have known, once told me: “Son, so many of the problems of this world could be solved if people just did their job.”

By this I think she meant many people go through life shifting, shuffling, swerving, obfuscating and deceiving. Whether this be driven by sloth, ignorance, self-interest or just sheer incompetence, we all, in some form or other, suffer the consequences.

So, it’s with my Mom in mind that I write to say: “Stop! You’ve screwed up. Step back, acknowledge your mistakes. Start again. Take a second look. It is your job to get it right.”

I am referring, of course, to the decision-making process that has gone on over the past several years in an attempt to find a better way to treat Victoria’s waste. I’ve been following the debate with varying degrees of disbelief, dismay, shock and, yes, awe at the folly and frailty of the human condition.

 As a good citizen who has cast his ballot in every election possible for 50 years, I have always voted with the expectation that the candidates elected would exercise their wisdom to weigh the best possible information available before making their decision. I have always considered that to be the most important part of their job.

When Sir James Douglas sailed into Victoria harbour he said the area that greeted him was “a perfect Eden.” Many tourists bringing money to the city have marvelled at the sight since. What kind of wrong-headed thinking would lead anyone to put a sewage treatment plant on this beautiful waterfront?

That’s just one small example of how things have gone down the drain during the rush to solve a problem that many among us haven’t been convinced actually exists.

You need to do a better job examining all the information available about sewage treatment options and their consequences. Call it a comprehensive feasibility review if you will. Approach the issue rationally. Highly-trained and experienced marine scientists say you are on the wrong tack. Re-examine the science and give it due gravitas. Determine whether your approach will benefit the environment before you dive in the deep end. Please include an analysis of this mega-project’s effect, if any, beneficial or otherwise, on climate change. Respected engineers say you could have chosen better treatment options, but felt rushed by promises of funding from senior governments. Set aside those promises. Give the carrot back to those donkeys. It’s our money. It will still be there if common sense warrants it. Set aside your political biases. Get it right. As Mom also used to say: “Waste not, want not.”

 Might I add: I have no truck with ideologies, I have no axe to grind. When I vote my expectation is that I will get good management and sensible decisions made on my behalf. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

As a longtime taxpayer, may I be so bold to ask that you fulfil your part of the social contract?

Brian Belton
Oak Bay


Courage, not lip service, please


With civic elections coming, we need to demand bold, visionary action on climate change.

At the Climate Change Summit in New York City, our prime minister was conspicuously absent, and Minister of Environment Leona Aglukkaq committed to only modest reductions in transportation emissions, something the US is forcing on us with its car manufacturing standards anyways.

The People’s Climate March, however, offered more hope—that a movement of the people might be powerful enough to force the political and corporate foot draggers to get on with an appropriate response to the threat to all species posed by climate change.

Politicians at all levels are great at paying lip service to the need to change course, to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. They are not so great, however, on the follow-through—implementing policies and laws strong enough to have a real impact. Some no doubt are in thrall to their corporate donors and cronies (see “Sleeping with the fossils” in this edition); others fear getting voted out of office. Citizens will need to convince politicians they will lose votes if they don’t act boldly on  climate change. Andrew Weaver, in a recent CBC interview, lamented: “When I look around the legislature and see my colleagues not wanting to step up and deal with [climate change], I wonder where their courage is.”

Saanich Councillor Vic Derman has similar concerns about the courage of his colleagues at the municipal level.

At a September lecture on the “Natural City” at UVic’s Geography Department, Derman described a toolbox for making cities more in tune with ecological systems. Foremost in this toolbox is the climate change lens, which Derman says we must now apply to any project or decision. Among the mostly student audience, I noticed Richard Atwell of the RITE Plan—and Saanich mayoral candidate. Both Derman and Atwell believe that if the sewage treatment problem had been viewed through a climate change lens, we would likely have distributed enhanced tertiary treatment with resource recovery underway now. Instead we are wasting money, time, and emissions on the stalled megaproject. (The Johnson Street bridge is another good example; we’d likely have a fully rehabilitated Blue Bridge if the climate change test had been applied there.)

Derman, a former teacher, Saanich councillor since 2002, and CRD director since 2005, has been the lone voice among the five Saanich councillors on the CRD questioning the sewage treatment plans in a rigourous way—and particularly from the perspective of climate change. (Seaterra has stated that the current CRD plan would reduce emissions by 6000 tonnes per year; the most pessimistic estimate of emissions reductions in a 2008 study of tertiary treatment with resource recovery was 367,500 tonnes per year. See “Mayor Jensen’s Flip-flop,” Focus, July/August 2014.)

At his lecture, Derman outlined the bleak prognosis for a planet on course for 4-degree Celsius rise by 2100: ocean acidification, mass species extinction, crop failures, and hundreds of millions of refugees giving rise to social instability. By fiddling with the primary systems that support us, we are, he says, “creating a hostile environment for our children.” We need “to mitigate like crazy,” he says, and fast.

While he discussed many ways to address climate change through his Natural City approach, key among them were transportation and land use: “They are unavoidably linked. Bad transportation choices encourage sprawl. If you choose sprawl, you end up with a transportation nightmare.”

Because 62 percent of Saanich’s emissions come from on-road transportation, tackling that sector makes sense. (By comparison, City of Victoria’s emissions from transportation are 40 percent.)

Density—compact land use—matters. Derman believes no building or subdivision —even those with LEED construction—is sustainable if it fosters urban sprawl.

He feels most politicians know this. It’s embedded in the Regional Growth Strategy and Saanich’s Official Community Plan. The latter states: “Incorporate climate change, its potential impacts, and mitigation measures when reviewing new development applications and undertaking long-term planning initiatives.”

Yet, too often at decision time, politicians forget to do this. “We say climate change is a priority, but then we make all sorts of decisions that exacerbate it,” said Derman. For 15 years now the CRD has been committed to three priority “modes”:  walking, cycling and public transit. Yet on-the-ground improvements are slim. Other cities with far colder weather (e.g. Stockholm) have fostered a much stronger cycling culture. Derman—who rode his bike to the lecture—said, “We need to make it safe, convenient, attractive and comfortable. Most of us don’t like cycling with a double decker bus beside us.”

But the most crucial thing to do on the transportation emissions front involves land-use planning. “If you want people to walk, you need to give them pleasant pedestrian walk ways—and  give them somewhere to walk to.” Unfortunately many regional neighbourhoods do not have grocery stores and other services within walking distance.

“We need to create cities full of people places and green spaces…Great urban streets provide rich opportunities for interaction and exchange,” said Derman. Conduits-for-cars like the Douglas corridor and Blanshard (Mayfair Centre to Uptown) are good examples of how to create community dead zones.

To sell people on denser cities, we must plan adequate green space, as well as commercial and cultural hubs within walking and biking distance.

Again, Derman feels many of his colleagues know this, but don’t bring that knowledge to their decision-making. He cites his failed attempts to get Saanich council to “decouple” parking from housing units. Right now each unit constructed must have an off-street parking space. Not only does that add $55,000-$70,000 to the cost of the average housing unit, it also encourages car usage—and penalizes car-free people who not only pay for parking they don’t need, but subsidize the car ownership of others.

Recently Derman opposed allowing secondary suites throughout Saanich, north of Mackenzie. (It’s already in place south of Mackenzie and he’s OK with that.) While increasing the housing supply is a worthy end, Derman argued in his submission to council: “Some neighbourhoods are remote from services, involve difficult topography and are not well served by transit. Unfortunately, placing suites in such areas is akin to placing a thin layer of sprawl on top of an existing layer. It provides some additional density but not enough to encourage new local services or substantially improved transit. The result is increased automobile use…[This] adds to problems of traffic congestion. Much more problematic is the fact it also results in more greenhouse gases and is contrary to OCP goals aimed at addressing climate change.”

Yet not once do the words “climate change” appear in the 13-page staff report which recommends approval of secondary suites north of MacKenzie. Council voted to proceed to public hearing on the issue (October 7).

This issue illustrates the challenge. Citizens like the secondary suite allowance because it helps with affordability, providing housing for lower income folks and revenue for mortgage holders. Their main concern was that off-street parking be required—another car-centric measure that must make Derman wince.

We do need courageous, visionary leadership, as Derman urges. But we also need to inform ourselves. Many of us are not making the connections. Since we live in a democracy and believe the public should be thoroughly consulted, we need leaders and citizens who understand the issue—and the policies, opportunities, and limits climate change implies. We must all be willing to do more than pay lip service when it comes to changing our ways.

Leslie Campbell is the founder and editor of Focus. She’s going to be applying the climate change lens to candidates in the November 15 municipal elections.


Notice of a Meeting on Wednesday, October 8, 2014, at 9:00 am

Agenda excerpts:
4. Presentations/Delegations
5. Core Area Liquid Waste Management Plan 2013 Annual Programs Report (EEP 14-44)
6. Service Plans Review Process
7. 2015–2019 Draft Financial Plan for the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Program
8. Liquid Waste Management Planning for Core Area – Next Steps (EHQ 14-45)
9. Seaterra Program and Budget Update No. 16 (including program reports 15 and 16)
10. Seaterra Commission Recruitment Process Update
11. Motions with Notice
a) Options for Wastewater Treatment: Director Hamilton
b) Implementing a Process for Investigating Best Practices: Director Derman

Agenda and attached reports:


The public deserves to be consulted (Brown)

OCTOBER 2, 2014 

Re: “All areas need to be consulted on sewage plan,” Sept. 27.

Politicians are often apathetic about consulting the public on issues of governance. They instead rationalize that there is lack of time to consult or that they already know the will of the people. Both are questionable excuses.

But on issues of major importance such as sewage megaprojects, amalgamation and taxes, it is essential that politicians consult the community for input on options. Failure to do so demonstrates lack of respect for the voting public.

It is this lack of respect that led to the Capital Regional District sewage fiasco. Failure to adequately consult with the public before planning began has resulted in a failed Seaterra sewage plan that was based on yesterday’s sewage technology and met none of the community’s needs for today. It did not deal with storm water issues or pharmaceuticals. It wasted excessive amounts of water and had limited energy recovery potential. It required 18 kilometres of expensive sewage pumping and it would have been extremely costly to maintain. It was an intrusive, centralized, secondary sewage design that the CRD cannot convince any municipality to accept with its siting contest.

Now is the time to prevent such debacles occurring again. It is time to elect municipal representatives who have and will continue to consult with the community on important issues, and give the voting public the respect that they deserve.

Norma Brown

Seaterra’s job is to implement plan (Sweetnam)

OCTOBER 3, 2014

Re: “All areas need to be consulted on sewage plan,” Sept, 27.

 The writer states the Seaterra plan is unacceptable. It should be noted that this is not a Seaterra plan — this is a plan developed by the Capital Regional District, approved by the CRD directors and was simply being implemented by the Seaterra Commission, established to implement the construction of a plant approved by the CRD board and the provincial government. The plan went through a great deal of scrutiny and was approved after years of consultation with the public.

 The CRD has consulted for more than 10 years throughout the region on a sewage-treatment plan including referendums, opinion surveys, open houses, community meetings, advisory committees and design charettes. Since the provincial order in 2006 that the core area must treat its sewage, the consultation was further increased and the CRD heard that the most important factor to the public was to find the “least-cost option.”

 Whether the approved plan is ultimately the final plan, it is certainly a cost-effective plan. The selected proponent for the treatment plant came in under budget. It is environmentally responsible; the advanced oxidation that is proposed eliminates pathogens including superbugs and further reduces contaminants of emerging concern. The plan provides for an energy heat loop to Esquimalt centre, heat recovery and use of landfill gas as an energy source to replace natural gas at the Resource Recovery Centre, and 100 per cent of dried biosolids produced at Hartland landfill to be used as a fuel substitute by a successful proponent on Vancouver Island.

Should the approved plan be abandoned, the Seaterra Commission is prepared to implement whichever plan the CRD and the province approve and the taxpayers are willing to pay for.

Albert Sweetnam
Program director, Seaterra