Colwood decides how to split cost of treatment

Cost of buy-in for regional sewage treatment project to be shared between system users and non-users alike

It wasn’t easy, but the City of Colwood has decided how its residents will pay their share of the Capital Regional District’s new sewage treatment plant.

After public consultations and lengthy discussions, council voted to have current sewer users pay maintenance costs and for the capacity needed right now. Capacity that is being purchased for future sewer users in Colwood will be paid for by all residents.

Like other growing communities, Colwood will need to reserve capacity in the new plant beyond what it currently needs.

How the community should pay for future capacity has been a topic of debate.

Acting Colwood administrator Michael Baxter said while it was impossible to please everyone, council’s decision attempts to strike a balance.

“There’s no absolute right or wrong here,” he said. “User pay is always the best system for making people responsible (for) what they use. But who pays for the future is a really hard question, isn’t it? There are arguments to be made about why it benefits everybody to have future capacity.”

The decision addresses all sewer treatment from now on, Baxter said, whether it’s provided by the CRD, the city or a private company. The city will be revisiting just how much capacity it wants to buy into the regional treatment facility. Originally the city requested an amount based on population, but the CRD requires a request based on volume.

Baxter said he will be providing council options for the amount of volume to request, including an option to opt out of the regional treatment facility entirely and rely on privately provided sewage treatment, such as that proposed by the Capital City Centre development.

“That decision doesn’t (refer to) how we’re going to provide sewage treatment. It’s just a decision about how we will pay for it.”

While there has been both public and political outcry against the CRD’s plans for a sewage treatment plant, the project is forging ahead, with the province recently winning a debate over who will control the project.

It was recently determined that outside experts will oversee the project, not the region’s politicians.

With the sewage project still in the early stages, Baxter said, it’s hard to provide exact figures on how much current sewer users and non-sewer users will pay. He did say that non-sewer users will likely pay between 10 and 15 per cent of what sewer users will pay.

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