June 14, 2015

Environment beats cost controls in sewage-treatment survey
Eight sites favoured for sewage plant (with sites map)
State Department should push Victoria, B.C., to get off the pot on treating its sewage: Congress
Next up for sewage: Westside options considered
Toss sewage time-bomb back to the province

Sewage survey didn’t reveal what people knew (Burchill)
- Is Langford sewage fee increase necessary? (Cowan)
Survey results fit well with RITE plan goals (Gilbert)
Sewage-plant list places burden on Victoria (Scarfe)


Environment beats cost controls in sewage-treatment survey

JUNE 9, 2015

Protecting the environment trumps cost in planning sewage treatment for Saanich, Oak Bay and Victoria, according to an Ipsos Reid survey.

When respondents were asked the most important criteria for developing sewage treatment, the single-biggest priority at 31 per cent was: “removal of harmful materials from entering water and/or land.”

That was followed by minimizing cost to the taxpayer (19 per cent), safety to residents (15 per cent) and no odour (nine per cent).

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who chairs the Capital Regional District east-side select committee, said the survey results match what she’s been hearing in the community.

“Along with just get it done,” she said.

Helps said an online survey that anyone could fill out just closed, so it will be interesting to see if those results mirror those of the Ipsos Reid survey.

A total of 452 residents answered the poll, conducted from May 14 to 19. It is believed to be accurate to within plus or minus 5.3 per cent.

Overall, 76 per cent of residents said they were familiar with the issue of sewage treatment in the CRD, including 22 per cent who said they were very familiar and 54 per cent who said they were somewhat familiar.

Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay are in the midst of an intensive public process looking for input on where to build a sewage-treatment plant with the hope of narrowing down sites by the end of this month.

It took four years for the Capital Regional District to settle on Esquimalt’s McLoughlin Point as a site for a regional sewage-treatment plant.

That plan went off the rails last year, when Esquimalt refused to rezone the site and the province declined to overturn the decision.

After the McLoughlin option went down the toilet, local governments split into two parallel groups to explore options: an east-side group composed of Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay, and a west-side group comprising Esquimalt, View Royal, Colwood, Langford and the Songhees First Nation.

The CRD’s sewage-treatment project has a budget of $788 million.

The federal and provincial governments are to contribute two-thirds of the cost, and the remainder would come from local taxpayers.

Eight sites favoured for sewage plant (with sites map)

Times Colonist
11 June 2015, page A1.

Eight sites, including Clover Point and the University of Victoria, are considered to have a high level of public support for at least a secondary sewage-treatment plant, according to results of a public consultation.

Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay are in the midst of deciding where to build a sewage-treatment plant with the hope of narrowing down sites by the end of this month.

Based on public feedback involving about 2,000 people, 47 sites were narrowed to 27.

Of the 27, eight had a “high level of support with mild dissent,” the consultation found.

Twenty sites have been highlighted in red, indicating they drew a “high level of concern with little to no support.”

“The red sites are gone as of tonight,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps during a Wednesday meeting at Belfry Theatre.

Rejected sites are mostly parks such as Beacon Hill and Holland in Victoria, Henderson and Carnarvon in Oak Bay, and Cuthbert Holmes in Saanich.

The eight top-ranked sites are: four spots in the Rock Bay area, including a public works yard, sites owned by B.C. Hydro and Transport Canada, and privately owned land; coast guard land beside Ogden Point; Clover Point; the University of Victoria; and the Saanich public works yard.

“We haven’t taken anything off the table except the red-lighted sites,” Helps said.

“We have the public opinion and now we will map over that with technical feasibility and some engineering expertise to see what stays.”

Public consultation will continue June 24 to about July 10.

A group representing Esquimalt, Colwood, Langford, View Royal and the Songhees First Nation is reviewing plant sites for their region but have not revealed any contenders.
- GVPL PressReader version​

Also, "Green Site" list at CRD Eastside public consultation on June 10: 

State Department should push Victoria, B.C., to get off the pot on treating its sewage: Congress

Joel Connelly
Seattle P-I Blog
June 11, 2015

The U.S. State Department deals with weighty matters of war, peace and global alliances.  Now, it is being asked to deal with Victoria’s poop.

A new spending bill for Foggy Bottom, the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, directs the State Department to get on Canada’s case over Victoria’s continuous dumping of raw sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

A distant Mount Baker looms over the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Victoria and cities on the Canadian side dump millions of gallons of untreated sewage into the strait each day.  Cities on the American side installed sewage treatment plants a generation ago.

“It’s time for Canada to take care of this mess,” said U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., echoing sentiments that have come from south of the border for 25 years.

“I grew up in Port Angeles, right across the water from Victoria,” he added.  “So it concerns me when, after many years, raw sewage from Canada continues to end up right in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.”

A decade ago, various levels of Canadian government appeared to abandon the longtime party line — “The solution to pollution is dilution” — and promised that British Columbia’s touristy capital would at last treat its sewage.

Dumping into the strait was “an embarrassment to British Columbia,” in the words of then-B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised that the federal government would take on a third of the cost.

It all fell apart last year when the Victoria suburb of Esquimalt refused to accept a sewage treatment plant.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark:  Clark and her government have blown off requests by Gov. Inslee and Washington’s congressional delegation that she make Victoria clean up its act.

The B.C. government of Premier Christy Clark refused to force a decision, although it has the power to do so.  Clark and Mary Polak, B.C.’s environment minister, blew off letters from Gov. Jay Inslee and Washington’s congressional delegation, asking for movement on the issue.

A new site for the treatment plant has not been agreed upon.  The Capitol Regional District, representing Victoria and neighboring municipalities, stands to lose federal money.  And treatment of Victoria’s sewage might not begin before 2023.

Kilmer was a toddler in Port Angeles in the mid-1970s when his city, plus nearby Port Townsend and Sequim, installed sewage treatment plants along the U.S. side of the strait.

A long succession of Washington politicians — Sen. Slade Gorton, Rep. Norm Dicks, Gov. Christine Gregoire, Reps. Rick Larsen and Kilmer — have urged Victoria to get off the pot.

With a seat on the House Appropriations Committee, Kilmer is now trying to leverage some pressure from State.


Next up for sewage: Westside options considered

JUNE 14, 2015 06:00 AM

In two weeks, people will have another chance to weigh in and pare down a list of potential sites for at least secondary sewage treatment.

Through public consultation involving about 2,000 people, a list of 47 potential sites on the east side of the region — in Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay — was narrowed last week to 27.

Of the remaining sites, 19 garnered a mixed level of support in public consultations and surveys, while eight had a high level of support. About half of those eight sites are in the Rock Bay area of Victoria. The remainder are located at Clover Point, coast guard land beside Ogden Point, University of Victoria lands, and a public works yard in Saanich. None is in Oak Bay.

Over the next two weeks, engineers will determine how technically feasible the sites are. The 47 potential sites were suggested by municipal councils.

Everything is open for discussion, according to Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who chairs the Capital Regional District eastside select committee.

Some parcels of land will be better suited to a distributed model of sewage treatment while others will be able to accommodate a centralized model.

Different types of sewage treatment and resource recovery will also be explored.

The province requires secondary treatment of sewage, a process that removes biosolids. More land would be needed to accommodate a tertiary sewage treatment plant, which also removes contaminants from the water.

On June 24, the eastside and westside select committees will present their regional sites for wastewater treatment for input from the public. A brief presentation in the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Hotel’s Harbour Room will kick off the open house, which runs 5-7 p.m.

The westside select committee, representing Esquimalt, Colwood, Langford, View Royal and the Songhees First Nation, has not revealed any potential sites.

An interactive online survey will also be available from June 24 until about July 10. Feedback via letters and emails will also be accepted.

Over the summer, the two CRD committees will hire an independent engineering team to look at preferred solutions. At the end of this process, there will be more opportunity for input on sites and technologies.

The hope is to have an approved plan and a zoned site or sites by March 2016.

The CRD’s sewage-treatment project has a budget of $788 million. The federal and provincial governments are to contribute two-thirds of the cost, while the remainder is to come from local taxpayers.

For more information on the CRD’s sewage treatment plan, go to crd.bc.ca/seaterra-program. 

Toss sewage time-bomb back to the province

JUNE 14, 2015 01:01 AM

According to Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, eight sites in Saanich, Oak Bay and Victoria have high public support as possible locations for a sewage plant. This finding is the result of a consultation process, she says, in which about 2,000 people gave their views.

I confess I’m skeptical. We find ourselves in this mess because the province’s environment minister, Mary Polak, rejected an earlier proposal by the Capital Regional District. That scheme would have sited one plant for the entire region at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt.

Esquimalt, understandably, balked, and Polak refused to back the CRD — after $48 million had been spent on a plan her ministry demanded.

So now we have municipalities either going it alone or in small groups. Hence the Saanich/Oak Bay/Victoria consortium.

Where to start? Apparently, the consultation process Helps mentioned looked initially at 47 sites. The eight are those that generated the least opposition; another 19 are still on the table, but have less public support.

But public support? First off, many of those 2,000 people who attended the consultation meetings were, in all likelihood, individuals who want a new approach and are willing to pay for it. But that doesn’t mean they’re a cross-section of the community. Wait until a final choice is proposed, and see what happens.

My crystal ball is no better than yours, but I’m fairly sure whichever community gets saddled with this vale of tears won’t go along. Can you see the residents of Oak Bay agreeing to have all the effluent from Saanich and Victoria piped into their back yard?

Then again, the process reminds one of a dentist who asks whether you would prefer a root canal or an extraction. You can have a preference without wishing either.

Next, there’s the question of cost. The original budget was $788 million. But that was for one plant, not several. Economies of scale were lost when the CRD scheme was torpedoed.

And years have passed since that target was set. There’s not a chance it will be met, or anything close to it. We have already blown through the CRD’s $48 million with nothing to show.

My guess is a more realistic estimate is at least $1 billion, and quite possibly more, before the end of this saga is reached.

Will the province raise its share? Will Ottawa?

My advice to the region’s mayors would be to put this decision back where it belongs — Room 112 of the provincial legislature. That is to say, Polak’s office.

Her ministry demanded this scheme, against the near-universal opposition of the region’s public-health officers. You know you’re on thin ice when you can’t convince such a risk-averse group you have a case.

Polak, of course, will refuse to pick up the pieces. But what choice does she have?

She can issue an order. The local governments in the region can politely drag their feet.

She can impose a fine. I believe the legislation in question allows for a hefty penalty.

But how does that play out, politically speaking? Hammering local taxpayers isn’t usually a winning strategy.

Long before we got to that point, I suspect, some sort of deal would be made. Perhaps the CRD’s scheme could be reinstated.

But the reality is that this project can’t be implemented without breaking someone’s eggs. Polak wants local politicians to own that grief. And naïvely, I fear, our mayors are desperately trying to comply.

This is one of those times when you have to reverse the polarity. The responsibility for this project rests, properly speaking, on the province. Only the minister has the power to resolve whatever intra-regional disputes are bound to break out.

By one means or another, our municipalities have to stop being bullied and send this time-bomb back where it came from.




Sewage survey didn’t reveal what people knew (Burchill)

JUNE 13, 2015

Re: “Environment tops in sewage survey,” June 9.

The recent Ipsos Reid survey found that 76 per cent of participants
consider themselves familiar with the local sewage issue. It didn’t
reveal to what extent that familiarity is misperception and

What percentage are aware of the facts of the issue, such as that
Capital Regional District studies found that the concentrations of
metals in the discharge from our outfalls are not toxic, but up to
1,000 times less than standards for drinking water?

Or that the claim by environmental groups that our outfalls have
caused vast fecal coliform contamination of local marine sediments was
a hoax? Coliforms in the tested sediment samples were what naturally
carpet the ocean floor due to teeming life in the ocean.

Or that the impact of our outfall discharge on the sediments is no
more than the impact around the outfalls of secondary treatment plants
on the west coast of Canada and the U.S.?

And what percentage would support the just-get-it-done attitude if
they knew that the system we have treats so effectively that the
billion-dollar secondary-treatment system being forced upon us will
provide very little, if any, net environmental benefit to our region?

Brian Burchill, chairman
Association for Responsible and Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment


Is Langford sewage fee increase necessary? (Cowan)

JUNE 8, 2015 

If I am reading the new Langford sewer-user fee schedule correctly, my fees will jump from $72.87 to $271.53 in five years, which means by then I will be paying almost four times as much.

Assuming that everyone working in the sewer department has so far been paid, and that $30 million has already been invested in the required infrastructure, which would indicate a well functioning organization, is this immense increase in rates justifiable?

I reflect that if teachers or nurses were asking for such an increases, there would be an enormous public outcry.

J.C. Cowan



Survey results fit well with RITE plan goals (Gilbert)

JUNE 14, 2015

Re: “Sewage group has little public support,” letter, June 11.

The letter-writer appears to misunderstand what the RITE plan stands for: respectful, innovative, tax-friendly, environmental.

The results of the Ipsos Reid survey fit our goals well, showing the RITE plan has strong public support. The survey says 31 per cent want the removal of harmful materials from water and land. This is a RITE objective. Plus, we don’t want them put into the air.

The second most popular public objective showed 19 per cent want to minimize cost. This is a top RITE plan priority, too. Recently, a vendor came forward with an estimate to treat the core region’s sewage for just $250 million, using distributed tertiary-treatment facilities. The idea is to avoid extra costs of pipes, tunnels, outfalls, pump stations or attenuation tanks.

The vendor suggests we use gasification, a proven technology that can generate revenues while destroying the harmful materials. Gasifiers are used all over the world and are a fraction of the cost of biosolids production. They achieve extremely high resource recovery, generating revenue sufficient to cover operating costs and debt payments.

We want that vendor’s ideas studied, and encourage other vendors and experts to help assess this potential.

The RITE plan group is small but effective. Over the past several years, we’ve consistently offered a positive alternative to the Seaterra plan. With this new approach, we will save $2 billion to $3 billion over the next 50 years.

Bryan Gilbert, RITE planner



Sewage-plant list places burden on Victoria (Scarfe)

JUNE 14, 2015

Re: “Eight sites favoured for Victoria’s sewage plant,” June 11.

The Eastside Select Committee correctly received the message that parkland should not be sacrificed for a sewage-treatment plant. This has had the appropriate effect of taking Beacon Hill Park and other parkland off the list.

But it has also had the effect of taking almost all Oak Bay locations off the list, and most of those in Saanich, since parklands were virtually all that these municipalities offered up as possible sites.

Since six of the eight top-ranked locations are within the City of Victoria, it appears Victoria will again take it on the chin for its adjacent municipalities.

The most absurd location left on the short-list is the coast guard land next door to Ogden Point. There is no recognition of the importance of the presence of the coast guard in Victoria’s harbour.

There is also no recognition of the fact that much of the coast guard land is low-lying and subject to rising sea levels or tsunami conditions. Moreover, it is built on fill that is unlikely to support the weight of a sewage-treatment plant.

Finally, there is no recognition that James Bay already is heavily burdened with huge volumes of noisy, dirty bus traffic associated with cruise ships.

Maybe Shellie Gudgeon was right in her recent commentary: James Bay should separate from Victoria and gain the same veto power that Mayor Barb Desjardins and Esquimalt had when McLoughlin Point was nixed.

Dr. Brian Scarfe