August 2, 2015

Chris Corps on CFAX - Some nuggets
Westside sewage committee asks for extension to look at sites
Langford mayor worries about project timing
VGH-area site to be considered by Westside sewage group
Boss of Seaterra sewage program let go, gets $500,000 severance
Editorial: Sewage clock is ticking
Leave no sewage stone unturned
Sewage sites and safety (Dew-Jones)

Chris Corps on CFAX - Some nuggets

Corps' talk starts 33 minutes into CFAX/Jessop 27 July podcast:
- Says Brcic called Langford Mayor Young a liar,
- CRD supports cronyism,
- CRD project would lifecycle-cost total $3.2B,
- Finance dept misses engineering cost mistakes,
- Corps' estimates split CRD,
- Stantec involvement questionable,
- Concern about Helps' process issues,
- Staff problems,
- Contingency fund now down from 15% to less than 5%.

Westside sewage committee asks for extension to look at sites

Amy Smart
Times Colonist
July 29, 2015 

The westside sewage committee wants more time to evaluate site options — and it’s banking on a centralized treatment option in the eastside to keep funding out of jeopardy.

The westside committee voted Tuesday to submit a full technical analysis of short-listed sites by the end of October, instead of September, as outlined in its PPP Canada $83-million funding agreement.

The core area liquid waste management committee will consider the plan today.

Co-chairwoman of the westside Barb Desjardins said the extra time is about getting the right technical information, not delaying the process.

“The reality is that we’re doing a good job with the westside process. If we screw up now, we screw up and lose funding,” she said. “We have to get this right.”

The vote came after the westside committee agreed to consider another new site, next to Victoria General Hospital. The site, at 2 Hospital Way in View Royal, was put forward by Associated Building Credits. It is different from the nearby Watkiss Way site in Saanich rejected by the eastside committee.

Neither the new site, nor the Royal Colwood Golf Course, which was another late addition, have gone through the same public consultation and engineering assessments as the other sites being considered.

A technical oversight committee will begin reviewing proposed sites from both the eastside and westside committees soon. Desjardins said it would be unwise to exclude two good options.

“I think it would be foolish for us to move forward without proper technical oversight,” she said, adding that staff have also said they want more time.

View Royal Mayor David Screech voted against the Hospital Way site, on the basis that it might push the project back.

“Where do we draw the line?” Screech said. “Personally, if it’s going to affect the timeline, I don’t believe it should be considered.”

He also said it hadn’t been approved by View Royal council, which could create a situation similar to McLoughlin Point, which was rejected by Esquimalt residents after the Capital Regional District identified it as the best treatment site.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who chairs both the eastside committee and the core area liquid waste management committee, said the eastside committee is ready to move forward with its options. Among them is a centralized treatment plant at Rock Bay, which could treat sewage for the entire region.

As long as technical experts can begin assessing the centralized option, the CRD shouldn’t be in contravention of its funding deadlines, she said, since it will still be moving forward with a treatment plan for the region.

During a meeting of the eastside committee Tuesday afternoon, Victoria Coun. Geoff Young suggested taking the centralized treatment option of Rock Bay off the table until the westside committee formally says it would consider it as an option.

Desjardins said she didn’t believe the westside committee had any objections to a centralized model. “What we heard at the westside committee today is it is essential for that to go forward to maintain funding, so we can continue the process of studying a distributed model.”

More than 600 residents participated in the westside survey of potential sites. The most popular sites included Esquimalt Nation land, a Langford site at Veteran’s Memorial Parkway and Meaford Avenue, the Colwood gravel pit, and West Shore Parks and Recreation’s Juan de Fuca playing field on the Island Highway.

Langford mayor worries about project timing

Katherine Engqvist
Goldstream News Gazette
Jul 30, 2015

Among the items dealt with by the Westside Wastewater Treatment and Resource Recovery Select Committee at its Tuesday meeting was a letter from Langford Mayor Stew Young that emphasized his concern over the push to find a new site.

Young wrote, “… more time is required to ensure a proper technical analysis in undertaken of all the sites being considered for the treatment plant(s) and to receive the appropriate public input related to the project.”

In a follow up interview, the mayor reiterated his thoughts on the issue.

“This will be a problem and it won’t go away,” he said.

Young suggested that the committee go to the project’s government funders and admit having made mistakes in the past. He wants the province and federal governments to recognize the region is undertaking a new process to achieving the mandated sewage treatment and that it will take a little more time to do it right.

“A good common sense argument will win …,” he said. “They want their money spent right.”

Young worries that if the committees rush the current process, there could be a repeat of the McLoughlin Point rejection, which essentially ground the project to a halt.

He adds there’s no option for failure this time around.

He sees the recent rejection of a potential site on Watkiss Way by Saanich council, before it received a technical analysis, as an example of how individual municipalities can interfere with the process.

“Politicians have now taken that out of the public process,” he said, adding that the site is now a missing piece to the puzzle that might have worked in a combination of sites. But the public will never be given that option, he said. “The public needs to be aware of the whole process.”

He fears that a “not in my backyard attitude,” combined with political interference, will lead to another rejection.

“Who says you pick a site and the public is going to support it?

“It’s very confusing to me and it’s very confusing to the public when they feel like they’re not getting part of the story. They’ve almost made it so there’s no other choice.”


VGH-area site to be considered by Westside sewage group

A property (outlined in red) near Victoria General Hospital was proposed as another possible sewage treatment site.

Katherine Engqvist 
Goldstream News Gazette
Jul 30, 2015

The push for wastewater treatment surges on with a federally legislated deadline looming in the not so distant future.

With the process moving forward, a late submission has been floated for consideration as a potential treatment site. At the Tuesday meeting of the Westside Wastewater Treatment and Resource Recovery Select Committee, members voted to send the roughly three-hectare, privately owned property at 2 Hospital Way forward for technical analysis.

“We didn’t feel like it was a big stretch,” said committee co-chair and Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton about adding this new property. “It would certainly fit the bill.”

Among the potential benefits of the new site, put forward by Associated Building Credits Ltd., is that nearby facilities such as Victoria General Hospital could use the treatment site as an energy source, she said. “They would be well positioned to utilize resources from a heat and water perspective.”

Last week, for the second time in a month, Saanich council rejected a proposal to include a privately owned property on nearby Watkiss Way on the list of potential sites for the CRD’s Eastside Select Committee to consider. The proposal had been brought back to council by Mayor Richard Atwell after the public showed a high level of interest in weighing in on the site.

In June, the Westside Select Committee announced a list of 20 possible sites that were deemed technically feasible for wastewater treatment on the West Shore. This list originally included 12 locations in Colwood, two in Langford, one in View Royal, and five in Esquimalt.

The Royal Colwood Golf Club also offered a three-acre parcel of land for consideration after the original list was made public.

The 22 properties, including the VGH-area site, will undergo a detailed technical analysis that will help the committee narrow down the list of potential sites and the technologies best suited to each. Hamilton hopes the process will be completed by the end of the year. “It’s an aggressive timeline,” she said. “There’s a commitment.”

The push to find a new treatment site comes after Esquimalt council voted in 2014, after a major public outcry, against rezoning land at McLoughlin Point for the main treatment facility. That rejection put roughly $253 million of federal government funding in jeopardy for the proposed $788-million wastewater treatment project.

Those funds, however, are not a lump sum coming from one budget. “It’s not something that was well understood at the board level,” Hamilton said.

The agreement for the different portions of that funding were not just contingent on meeting timelines, but dealt with such aspects as the technologies used in the project, she said. “They’ve agreed to hold the funding until we bring them the plan.”

Hamilton said the federal government has agreed to extend the project completion deadline from 2020 to 2023. But many still fear that timeline may be too tight to allow for due process (see adjacent story), a situation that was blamed for the failure of the McLoughlin site.

“We’re working diligently,” said Hamilton. “Everything that has been put forward has been acknowledged by council.”
Boss of Seaterra sewage program let go, gets $500,000 severance

JULY 31, 2015 01:33 PM

The head of the Seaterra sewage program, who was still receiving a $290,000 annual salary even though the project was stalled, will be let go at the end of September.

Albert Sweetnam was at the top of the Capital Regional District’s salary list for 2014. He will receive just under $500,000 in severance pay.

Sweetnam was hired on a five-year contract in 2013 to manage a staff of more than 20 people. But after the project halted, along with the prospect of McLoughlin Point as a treatment site, he maintained the same pay, even though he was managing a pared-down program with the equivalent of four full-time workers.

The CRD announced Sweetnam’s departure Friday morning, following a meeting of the Seaterra Commission, which has been renamed the core area wastewater treatment program commission.

By the end of September, all staff will have completed their assignments and the office will close, the CRD said.

The commission office space will be leased out by the CRD. Almost all of the contracts specific to the project have been terminated. Outstanding items remaining in October will transition to CRD staff for wrap-up.

Editorial: Sewage clock is ticking

AUGUST 1, 2015

The capital region’s storm-battered sewage project threw some more crew members overboard on Friday. This time it was Seaterra manager Albert Sweetnam and his remaining staff who got the heave-ho.

And just to underline the discontent, the King County, Washington, representative on the Seaterra Commission abandoned ship, saying the voyage is taking far too long.

Now the Capital Regional District and its core-area sewage committee have to hope that their new plan for getting the system built will work. With funding deadlines looming and the required completion dates visible further off on the horizon, there is no time for more mistakes.

While open houses and public surveys by the eastside and westside sewage committees attracted all the recent attention, Seaterra was sitting forgotten in the background. The Seaterra Commission was created as a body of experts to take many of the decisions on the project out of the political realm; its establishment was required by the provincial government. The commission turned management over to Sweetnam and a staff of professionals.

But since the plan to build a single sewage-treatment plant at McLoughlin Point ran into the brick wall of Esquimalt’s refusal in June 2014, Seaterra has had little to do. The 20-plus staff were cut to four, and Sweetnam continued earning his $290,000-a-year salary, which made him the highest-paid person on the CRD’s salary list.

That obviously couldn’t go on, so Sweetnam will leave at the end of September, taking with him indelible memories of Victoria politics and almost 500,000 of our tax dollars in severance pay.

While most of us are floored by the thought of such a settlement, we should keep in mind that hefty severance packages are standard in most contracts for highly paid executives. The time for taxpayers to object is before the wedding, not after the divorce.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who chairs the core-area liquid waste management committee, estimates that terminating Sweetnam now will save taxpayers $1.4 million.

There is no point in shovelling more money into an agency that has no hope of fulfilling its mandate. Since June of last year, it has cost $847,000 to maintain the rump of Seaterra.

Even the Seaterra name is gone, replaced by the less-lyrical “core area wastewater treatment program commission.”

After the public drubbing that followed the fight over McLoughlin Point and the abortive effort to put a biosolids plant on Viewfield Road in Esquimalt, the CRD has placed all its hopes in the new process, with westside and eastside committees committed to extensive public consultation. Those committees, and the main CRD committee, say they are optimistic that they can meet deadlines despite having to cram enormous amounts of work into about a year.

Remember that we have been working on this for nine years. Pam Elardo certainly does. She was the representative of King County, Washington, on the Seaterra Commission, until she handed in her resignation on July 23.

Our neighbours have been pushing Victoria for years to stop pumping sewage into our shared waters, so having an American representative was an important sign of our commitment. Elardo had high praise for Sweetnam and his professionalism, but fears that the CRD’s new process could put completion decades away.

“I and King County leadership have lost confidence that the current approach will this time be successful. We are concerned that there will be yet another failed process,” she wrote.

That’s a vote of non-confidence that we have to take seriously.

Tossing Seaterra over the rail makes sense, but now the CRD has to make sure the ship reaches its destination in time.

Leave no sewage stone unturned

Goldstream News Gazette
Jul 30, 2015

An example of how political actions can bog down a logical process was made clear this month during deliberations over potential sewage treatment system sites for the Capital Regional District.

This week, a large section of private land near Victoria General Hospital was brought forward for consideration by the Westside Select Committee, whose members voted to add the property to the list of potential sites – despite that it came in past the submission deadline. It will be put forward, along with 21 other sites, including a parcel on the Royal Colwood Golf Club lands, for technical analysis to determine its merits and suitability.

Meanwhile, Saanich councillors last week again rejected a proposal from the owners of a piece of property just down the street on Watkiss Way to put forward their land to the Eastside Select Committee for the same purpose.

Regardless of the reasoning for the decision, Saanich council demonstrated a “we know better” attitude that thumbs its nose at the public’s desire to influence the selection of potential sewage treatment sites.

Those on the Westside, with few exceptions, are willing to look at any site with possible merits. On the surface at least, the added benefits seem clear, such as VGH sharing in the energy production from a treatment plant.

We agree with Langford Mayor Stew Young, who worries that Saanich politicians, by putting the kibosh on a possible site before it even gets to the Eastside committee, are engaging in a “not-in-my-backyard” mentality that fails to look at the big picture.

View Royal Mayor David Screech voted against adding the Westside site this week, arguing that its inclusion would further delay a project already running way behind schedule.

While no one wants to see the site selection process drag on to the point where the region is forced to choose quickly to meet funding deadlines, adding a few extra weeks to the process, especially if this site happens to be judged as ideal for the purposes, will be seen as a smart investment.


Sewage sites and safety (Dew-Jones)

James Bay Beacon
July 2015

Beacon. My right to comment is based on my having a degree in Municipal Engineering from Manchester University, having worked for 14 years with a firm of consulting engineers who did nothing else but design, prepare contract documents and oversee construction of sewage treatment plants and 18 years with our Province's Pollution Control Branch. I assessed the original application for a permit to use our long outfall system and recommended it be authorized.

My opinion is that to build a plant to replace out long outfall system would be to take a step backwards for the environment, certainly so if one includes health and safety in 'environment' and massively so if one allows for the loss of benefit that the money could have achieved in other directions. The opinions of the medical health officers, biologists and oceanographers who have been involved is, I believe, not much different. Nobody seems to bother about them. Nobody seems to understand the impact of a contract involving a great deal of excavation in a place where the rock is often just below the surface. Nobody bothers about permanent injuries, but there will be many of them, and this project is not worth one.

I am grown seriously old but would be pleased to meet in my house with any group who would like to do so. The reasons for my views are easily explained. Meanwhile, read my booklet, 'Victoria's Sewage Circus' available in our libraries or (

J.E. (Ted) Dew-Jones. P.Eng.