December 21, 2014

Victoria eyes back-to-basics approach on sewage treatment
Editorial: Move ahead on sewage issue
City of Victoria is going ahead with plans to consult with residents on a sewage treatment system
Victoria explores potential sites for sewage treatment
Nils Jensen to Chair CRD Sewage Committee
New & Improved Leadership on the Sewage Issue: ‘Westshore5′ are showing the way
City of Victoria Governance & Priorities video
New CRD boss selects himself to head sewage committee

CRD should take charge on sewage issue (Langley)
- No reason to consider View Royal sewage site (Walshe)

No suggestion in article below that a legal challenge be made about the sewage plant project or deadlines (due to fear of losing that fed/prov subsidy?), and with no hint that sewage+sludge plants might be hazardous, unsafe or threat to neighbours (CRD's "Triple Bottom Line" decision-making didn't include those criteria). And TC reporters underplay the annual per-household top cost - its not just "potentially $1,000 or more per year" when the top estimate at $1,900 is awfully close to $2,000.

Victoria eyes back-to-basics approach on sewage treatment

DECEMBER 15, 2014 

Victoria staff are recommending getting back to basics as the city develops citizen-engagement plans for sewage treatment.

“The public didn’t buy into the original [Capital Regional District] plan for all sort of reasons, maybe some misinformation but a feeling of not being heard or not being listened to,” said Mayor Lisa Helps.

“I would like it to be a plan the public can get behind.”

But Coun. Ben Isitt says that with half a billion dollars in senior government funding for sewage treatment hanging in the balance, time is of the essence and the city should be getting on with the more difficult issue of site selection.

“I think until we actually get down to specifics of where our potential sites in the city and other potential sites are in other municipalities, we’re kind of just beating around the bush,” Isitt said Monday.

“They’re going to be hard discussions but I think it’s time for us to begin having those discussions about where these facilities can be located.”

Helps said site selection is important, but the governance of sewage needs to be sorted out first. The current plan for sewage treatment is region-wide, so any switch to a sub-regional solution — such as a west-side or east-side plan — would need to be approved.

Victoria has hired consultants and begun working with Saanich and Oak Bay staff to explore local or sub-regional treatment options since the collapse last summer of the Capital Regional District’s plan to locate a plant at Esquimalt’s McLoughlin Point.

In a report going to councillors Thursday, municipal staff present a strategy to begin in January to outline to the public:

• how the existing system works and the benefits of sewage treatment

• wastewater treatment processes and technologies

• differences and considerations in deciding between centralized and distributed systems

• resource recovery

• plants in other communities.

Isitt says he’s maintained since the province refused to overturn Esquimalt’s decision not to rezone McLoughlin that the most important next step is to find a replacement site.

The problem, Isitt said, is that council hasn’t given city staff firm direction to begin the process of site selection, something he plans to propose Thursday.

“I’m worried on two grounds — the biggest one is the ongoing negative impact to the environment by disposing of sewage into the ocean.”

The other problem is the risk of losing half a billion dollars in senior-government funding, which would mean each household’s cost for the project would rise from approximately $300 to potentially $1,000 or more per year, he said. The CRD is supposed to have a plant running by 2018 to meet federal and provincial government funding deadlines.

Isitt said he doesn’t oppose public consultation, but most people already accept that the region has an ethical and legal responsibility to treat its wastewater.

“So it’s not a question of whether or not to treat,” he said. “It’s a question of how to treat and where and I think through the process of site selection, we can look at the questions around technology and even around governance.”

Meanwhile, on the west side of the region, a survey is asking residents for input on a potential sewage-treatment strategy for Colwood, Esquimalt, Langford, View Royal and the Songhees nation.

The survey is online at

Residents can also learn more at an open house today from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Songhees Wellness Centre. It’s the first in a series of public discussions that will be hosted in each of the westside communities.

“Are people prepared to have a [sewage treatment facility] in their community? Do they want the cheapest option or the most technical? It will identify the next roads to take,” said Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton, who is co-chairwoman of the Westside Wastewater and Resource Recovery Select Committee with Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins.

Hamilton said that, given the timelines imposed by the federal and provincial governments, it was time to start moving.

“We can’t lose momentum,” she said.

“We’re fairly confident that if people are fairly engaged in working toward a solution, we can get there.”

One thing that CRD never did was mount a legal challenge of the fed/prov orders, based on lack of information about environmental impact of the effluent as well as relative risk to the community from sewage + sludge plants.

Editorial: Move ahead on sewage issue

DECEMBER 17, 2014

Eight years ago, the province ordered sewage treatment for the capital region. Provincial and federal deadlines for land-based treatment are that much closer, but a solution seems further away than ever.

The municipalities involved are pondering the next steps, but they don’t have unlimited time. Unless decisive steps are taken soon, this issue threatens to slide backward into expensive chaos.

Some steps have begun. Victoria has hired consultants and is working with Saanich and Oak Bay to explore local or sub-regional options to replace the Capital Regional District’s regional plan that collapsed last summer when Esquimalt refused to allow the treatment plant to be built at McLoughlin Point.

Plans are being developed by Victoria to engage the public. Meanwhile, a survey is seeking input on the possibility of a sewage-treatment plant for Colwood, Esquimalt, Langford, View Royal and the Songhees First Nation.

It’s commendable that people want to do studies, to get input and find a solution that is affordable and effective, but what has been going on for the past eight years? The CRD’s waste-treatment committee did extensive professional studies into the options, including distributed treatment, which was deemed to be too expensive, and came up with the proposal for the central plant. The studying and planning have already cost $60 million.

Critics of the proposal came from several different directions. Some believed the current method of discharging sewage into the ocean is suitable. Some believed the proposal for secondary treatment was out of date, and that tertiary treatment is needed to keep harmful substances from being discharged into the ocean. Some favoured the distributed approach — treating sewage at several smaller plants.

Those are not unreasonable approaches, not ideas from the wild-eyed fringe. Yet they imply that the CRD experts did not know what they were talking about, that they were wrong in their conclusions, that they did not consider all options. How likely is it new studies will come up with different solutions? If they just re-invent the wheel, it will be an expensive wheel.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps is strong on consulting the public. “The public didn’t buy into the original plan,” she says.

But do we know that? The only effort that sought to gauge public opinion on the issue was not a scientific poll, but a telephone survey conducted by the Sewage Treatment Action Group, in the group’s own words, “to raise awareness about the limitations of secondary treatment.” It found the majority of people were “concerned,” which is too vague to draw firm conclusions. It would have been helpful if the CRD had conducted a scientific survey to get a better idea of public support.

Municipal leaders want consensus, but unanimity will be impossible. It has been and always will be a divisive issue. Compromise will necessarily be part of any successful plan.

The thing that stopped the original plan in its tracks was the location, when Esquimalt refused to rezone the McLoughlin Point site. Regardless of what is determined by further studies, one fact won’t change — finding a site or sites for sewage treatment will be extremely difficult.

The precedent has been set; a municipality can simply say no, and the province won’t override it. The leadership on the issue has been taken away from the CRD, so who will lead?

Doing nothing is not an option — senior governments have made that clear.

Neither is going slowly. While hasty decisions are inadvisable, deliberations cannot proceed at a leisurely pace.

Eight years after the region was ordered to start planning for sewage treatment, there is no plan. It seems we are back at square one. Let’s hope resolving this issue doesn’t take another eight years.
City of Victoria is going ahead with plans to consult with residents on a sewage treatment system

CHEK TV news clip
18 December 2014

"Victoria has hired consultants and begun working with Saanich and Oak Bay staff to explore local or sub-regional treatment options since the collapse last summer of the Capital Regional District’s plan to locate a plant at Esquimalt’s McLoughlin Point. Now the city will present a strategy to begin in January to outline to the public all the details about a sewage treatment project"
Victoria explores potential sites for sewage treatment

DECEMBER 18, 2014

Victoria is hoping to identify potential sites for sewage treatment even as it develops plans on how to best consult residents on what type of system they want.

On Thursday, councillors endorsed a motion put forward by Coun. Ben Isitt to have staff report on options for wastewater treatment facilities in the city.

Under Isitt’s motion, the site search will be based on criteria such as availability of land, opportunities for resource recovery, and consistency with zoning and the Official Community Plan.

The city also directed staff to work with Saanich, Oak Bay and the Capital Regional District to develop terms of reference for an east side subcommittee of the CRD’s core area liquid waste committee.

A similar subcommittee is developing a sewage strategy for the west side communities of Esquimalt, View Royal, Colwood, Langford and the Songhees First Nation.

Councillors also gave their blessing to staff continuing to work with consultants to develop a public consultation plan to outline such issues as:

• How the existing system works and the benefits of sewage treatment.

• Wastewater treatment processes and technologies.

• Differences and considerations in deciding between centralized and distributed systems.

• Resource recovery.

• Plants in other communities.

Mayor Lisa Helps said it isn’t inconsistent to explore site selection while developing and conducting public consultation.

“I think we can do three things at once,” Helps said, adding that it’s important to get input from the public about their values.

Coun. Geoff Young said the best way of getting feedback is to present different options for the public to weigh. The number of viable site options is likely very small, he said.

Victoria has hired consultants and begun working with Saanich and Oak Bay staff to explore local or sub-regional treatment options since the collapse last summer of the CRD’s plan to locate a plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt.

The CRD is supposed to have a sewage treatment plant running by 2018 in order to meet federal and provincial government funding deadlines.
No doubt Jensen will now make an extra-special effort to show up for more than his previous 18% attendance at sewage meetings..

Nils Jensen to Chair Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee

Dec 19, 2014

Victoria, BC– Capital Regional District (CRD) Board Chair Nils Jensen announced today that he will chair the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee (CALWMC). A Standing Committee of the CRD Board, the CALWMC’s mandate is to oversee and make recommendations to the Board regarding the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Plan and certain aspects of the Core Area Wastewater Treatment Program (CAWTP) or Seaterra Program.

“Identifying solutions for wastewater treatment is a significant priority for the CRD and will be a collaborative process,” said Chair Jensen. “I am in the process of meeting with mayors across the region and am proposing a summit of Core Area mayors, where we can discuss how we will reconcile our unique interests and collectively take the necessary steps to meet Federal wastewater treatment regulations and the Provincial order to implement sewage treatment. Federal and Provincial funding is contingent on meeting these requirements. As timing is critical, I will also be asking for meetings with BC’s Senior Federal Minister, James Moore, as well as Premier Clark and Minister Polak.”

Under the new CRD Select Committee Framework, the communities of Colwood, Langford, View Royal, Esquimalt and Songhees Nation are working together through the Westside Wastewater Treatment and Resource Recovery Select Committee to engage citizens and put forward options for wastewater treatment that meet the unique needs of their communities. An engagement and consultation campaign with westside residents in developing wastewater treatment options is currently underway. The first open house was held on December 16 and five more will be hosted throughout the westside communities in January 2015.

“The development of these select committees is part of the overall process in finding an accepted solution to wastewater treatment and a parallel process for Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay could be brought forward soon,” said Jensen. “I have already been in contact with Director Helps and Director Atwell on this issue.”

The CRD is responsible for formulating one final Core Area Liquid Waste Management Plan and managing the financial contributions from senior levels of government. Provincial requirements state that the approved CALWMP must be implemented by an independent body, in this case the Seaterra Commission.

New & Improved Leadership on the Sewage Issue: ‘Westshore5′ are showing the way

A standard of public engagement we deserve

John Farquharson
Open Victoria
December 19, 2014

As noted in several previous postings, the information provided to residents by the CRD on the sewage issue has not met its public participation promise of being balanced and objective. The low point of biased and misleading information may have been the initial public engagement open house on the proposed Viewfield site for the wastewater facility. A key information poster was so deceptive the CRD was forced to remove it from all subsequent events.

So Tuesday’s initial presentation on a sub-regional treatment plan hosted by the Westshore5 (Colwood, Esquimalt, Langford, View Royal and the Songhees First Nation) was a most welcome break from a PR approach. There were some shortcomings with a few of the posters in clarity and logic, easily corrected by the next open house in mid-January. In comparison to the CRD’s crime of spin doctoring, the Westshore’s deficiencies were the equivalent of a parking ticket.

The most welcome feature of the 24 posters was that all options were on the table including tertiary level treatment and gasification. Participants were asked for their preferences on a number of issues such as what should happen to the treated water and solids and acceptable features of a wastewater facility in their neighbourhood. Residents’ responses will be put into the hopper along with input from industry experts, environmental assessments and siting options towards a fine tuning of conceptual plans “…once the various options have clear costs associated with them”. 

These costs will eliminate some of the treatment technologies, but the overall process ensures residents’ preferences will receive, presumably, a thorough and impartial hearing. Hopefully the extremely tight timeline of a recommended option by February doesn’t limit the review’s thoroughness and that the CRD staff’s lead role in providing information to the Select Committee doesn’t impair its impartiality.

The Westshore5 have raised the bar considerably on public engagement. On sewage treatment consultation, a new standard has been set and any other municipality (i.e. Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay) that doesn’t plan to follow suit may want to reconsider.

For example, Victoria’s RFP for a similar undertaking, Exploring Local Wastewater Treatment Options, appears significantly constrained from the start. On page 4 of the RFP, under costing review for options, proponents are instructed to “..use the same costing criteria as outlined in CRD Discussion Paper 36-DP-2″ published in 2008. This discussion paper, not without its critics, was frequently referenced in support of the CRD’s failed attempt  to build a centralized secondary treatment facility at Esquimalt’s McLoughlin Point. 

Will the designated restriction on costing criteria essentially preclude the more innovative options, such as distributed tertiary treatment and gasification of the sludge within an integrated waste management system, from a full, fair and impartial evaluation? Will Victoria’s option exploration fall considerably short of the new public engagement standard established on Tuesday night?  Imagine the howls of outrage if the Westshore5 end up with a cutting edge treatment system for the same or less cost per capita than a possibly centralized secondary treatment facility for Victoria, Saanich and/or Oak Bay.

A December 17th Times Colonist(TC) editorial, “Move ahead on the sewage issue”, raised the possibility that “CRD experts did not know what they were talking about, that they were wrong in their conclusions, that they did not consider all options”, and that eight years and $60M have been wasted. It concluded that the “leadership on the issue has been taken away from the CRD” and posed the question of “who now will lead?”. To the degree that leadership requires breaking with the past and doing things in a new way, the answer to the question is obviously the Westshore5.
City of Victoria Governance & Priorities video

18 December 2014

City of Victoria Governance & Priorities video-recorded discussion on Thursday of sewage treatment issues starts at 00:36:20 minutes mark, ends 01:34:35, with two short pdf reports "Exploring Local Wastewater Treatment Options" linked for download on agenda screen:
New CRD boss selects himself to head sewage committee

DECEMBER 20, 2014

New CRD chairman Nils Jensen has already met with some mayors and hopes to meet soon with federal and provincial officials.   Photograph By DARREN STONE, Times Colonist

New Capital Regional District boss Nils Jensen has appointed himself to chair the standing committee charged with implementing sewage treatment.

“My thinking was this is a job you wouldn’t wish on anyone, but because it’s such an important priority, I felt I should take it on,” said Jensen of chairing what has been one of the region’s most dysfunctional committees.

Jensen, who was elected CRD board chairman in a secret ballot of directors on Dec. 9, has already met with some mayors and hopes to meet soon with Premier Christy Clark, B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak and B.C.’s senior federal minister, James Moore, to clarify issues surrounding senior government funding.

The province and the federal government have committed to sharing two-thirds of the $782.7-million megaproject’s cost, with $253.4 million coming from the feds through the Building Canada Fund, the Green Infrastructure Fund and P3 Canada, and $248 million from the province.

But that funding is tied to the wastewater treatment program known as Seaterra, which would have seen a regional treatment plant built at Esquimalt’s McLoughlin Point and in operation by 2018.

Esquimalt’s refusal to rezone the site to permit the proposed plant — and the province’s subsequent refusal to override that decision — has many worried that some or all of the senior government funding is at risk.

“That’s one of the first things I want to clarify and put beyond argument,” Jensen said. “What is the federal government’s position in terms of the grants? Can they be extended? Can they be renewed? Will they be transferable to other locations? And similarly for the province.”

With McLoughlin off the table, options for sub-regional treatment plants are being explored.

The west side communities of Esquimalt, View Royal, Colwood and Langford, along with the Songhees First Nation, have formed a select committee to consult with residents to explore their options. It’s expected a similar committee of representatives of the east-side municipalities of Saanich, Oak Bay and Victoria will soon be formed. Victoria has instructed staff to report back on potential sites for a local or sub-regional plant.

Jensen will be chairing a sewage committee that has several familiar faces. He’s reappointed all of the returning members: Victoria councillors Geoff Young, Ben Isitt and Marianne Alto; Saanich councillors Vic Derman, Judy Brownoff and Susan Brice; Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins; Langford councillors Denise Blackwell and Lanny Seaton; and Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton. Newly elected directors include Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, View Royal Mayor David Screech, Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell and Saanich Coun. Colin Plant.

Jensen admitted that moving the difficult sewage treatment file forward will be challenging.

“But I think there’s renewed hope and interest in working together. I’ve had meetings with director Atwell and director Helps, and what we’ve talked about is a collaborative effort moving forward.”



Langley may be accurate in his perception that current activities "are moving several steps backward". The issue is that they aren't moving back enough steps to do the due diligence of legal challenge and evidence-based science on environment impacts, on relative risk analysis, etc. Langley's conclusion is a jewel: what system would be cheapest to taxpayers?

CRD should take charge on sewage issue (Langley)

DECEMBER 19, 2014

Re: “Move ahead on sewage issue,” editorial, Dec. 17.

At the Dec. 16 open house at the Songhees Wellness Centre, the Westside Sewage Treatment Committee introduced a new public education review of a full range of possible sewage-treatment technologies, resource recoveries and potential sites in that area. The City of Victoria is setting out on a similar public engagement process for the much larger Victoria, Oak Bay and Saanich sewage treatment area.

The current activities regarding sewage treatment in the region are moving several steps backward, not ahead. The ranges of possible sewage treatment technologies and multiple sites are being dramatically expanded. If a more expensive distributed system is adopted, with senior government contributions fixed at $500 million, there will be huge increases in local taxpayer costs.

Over the past eight years of CRD planning for sewage treatment, it has been clear that a centralized plant is the most cost-effective option.

The problems with the current CRD plan are twofold:

The selected McLoughlin Point treatment site has many development constraints and requires the distant Hartland site for biosolids disposal.

The CRD is designated by the province to take full responsibility for implementing and operating the new regional sewage treatment system, but the CRD has no authority to define and secure treatment sites. This is an impossible burden for elected representatives and for taxpayers in the region. This should be changed.

The CRD needs to take charge and re-establish the essential goal of implementing a sewage treatment system that meets all provincial and federal regulatory requirements at minimum cost to CRD taxpayers.

David Langley
No reason to consider View Royal sewage site (Walshe)

DECEMBER 14, 2014

Re: “A better option for sewage treatment in our areas,” advertisement, Dec. 9.

The owners of the 8.5-acre site in View Royal promoting this Thetis Cove property as a sewage plant got a lot of things wrong.

Why would you build a sewage facility in the middle of a residential neighbourhood? The property is surrounded by six stratas — densely populated by townhouses and apartment buildings. There are hundreds of people living within a stone’s throw of the proposed site. Bowater Pulp and Paper closed the plywood mill in 1995, not 2004, and the site has been designated residential or agricultural/recreational since then.

The Town of View Royal adamantly rejects consideration of this site for sewage treatment. Thetis Cove Neighbourhood Centre is the last developable piece of pristine waterfront available for public use in Esquimalt Harbour. This site is a critical component in the completion of View Royal’s community plan.

It makes absolutely no sense to consider this site for sewage treatment, which is likely why the Capital Regional District has discounted it in the past.

Nancy Walshe
View Royal