The pendulum has swung back to McLoughlin Point - and is likely a final decision - in the back-and-forth political discussion over where to house a single sewage treatment plant for the region.

McLoughlin Point set for approval Wednesday

Saanich could host private-run biosolids plant at Hartland

As the business case for a $765 million single-site sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt comes before the Capital District Board tomorrow (Sept. 14), most directors are expected to move the proposal forward.

Former CRD chair Coun. Judy Brownoff has seen McLoughlin Point on the table, off the table, and now back on the table as the best option for Greater Victoria’s provincially mandated sewage treatment.

She’s not surprised to see it return as the Core Area Wastewater Treatment Project Board’s first choice.

This time, however, it’s time to accept it, she said.

“McLoughlin Point had already been through a number of different peer reviews and technical oversight panels, and they’ve all come back to McLoughlin,” Brownoff said. “We have to approve it, the money’s on the chopping block. We need the business case and the site approved or we will have to reapply and we don’t want to do that.”

The proposal, which was released on Sept. 7, is to build a single 108-megalitre-per-day plant for the region at McLoughlin. It will provide tertiary treatment of wastewater and use new piping to convey the remaining sludge to Hartland where a new plant will deal with the biosolids. The capital cost of the recommended proposal is about $765 million, which comes in at the bottom end of the previous estimates that reached as high as $1.1 billion. With federal and provincial contributions in place, the estimated cost per CRD household ranges from about $146 per year per household in Colwood to $344 per year per household in Oak Bay, the report says.

The project will use land at Rock Bay as a construction laydown area to barge materials to McLoughlin while the new plant is built, thereby minimizing the number of trucks on local roads. The biosolids plant at Hartland, which will treat the remaining sludge, could be a privately run (public-private-partnership) plant.

The Hartland plant is a topic among many that will need to be clarified, Brownoff said.

“I’m pleased [McLoughlin] is tertiary and will be publicly owned and operated, that’s a key component for me. And we need to remember you can always tweak any proposal as you move it along. There are other components, such as how [piping of] biosolids to Hartland will work, as it’s all through Saanich, where there could be a private run plant on public land, how does that work? We have not yet had in-depth discussions with Saanich or the surrounding community regarding that.”

Jane Bird, the project board chair, said they looked at 29 options as possible sites, which included siting and technology. If there was a Saanich site considered, none came close to being shortlisted, she said. Among the criteria were cost, timing, social, environmental, and other concerns.

Bird said the board did look at the “distributed model,” which was recently brought to light as a Colwood proposal, led by Saanich-based Aqua-Tex Scientific Consulting,  and backed by Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell. But the board believed there was too much uncertainty to build an all-in-one tertiary sewage treatment plant in Colwood and another in Langford, Bird said.

“It may not deal with the biosolids on site so the need to build a piping system [to convey sludge to Hartland] may still be necessary,” Bird said.

The Colwood proposal suggested a per household cost of $30 in Colwood rather than $146. But that’s not necessarily true, said Bird, who said distributed sewage treatment plants could end up costing more.

“There was a long standing interest in having a plant in the West Shore, and we heard from those [Colwood] folks. But the proposal was just that, a proposal, with no environmental assessments.”

Because of public commentary showing support for tertiary treatment in smaller, regionally distributed sites, the project board’s report suggests a commitment to advance studies for a wastewater treatment proposal for Colwood.

As for Wednesday’s vote, multiple Saanich councillors believed it would be approved, though not unanimously.

Esquimalt Coun. Tim Morrison clearly recalls when his council defeated McLoughlin as a the site for a regional wastewater treatment facility in 2013. At the time, his council cited concerns with the size of the plant and the environmental impact.

Now, Morrison and his colleagues will likely be asked to do it all over again.

“…McLoughlin was ruled out as a single site and the conclusion on the matter was confirmed when the CRD itself cemented that McLoughlin would never be reconsidered as a single site,” said Morrison, who believes the project board was heavily biased towards McLoughlin.

“It’s bizarre that the project board just put the CRD table back into a mad hatter tea party mode. It’s illogical, it’s unjust to Esquimalt and it’s just complete insanity. All they’ve done is take the same report from three years ago and put some lipstick on it.”

The entire report is available at coreareawastewater.ca.

– With files from Pamela Roth

 

 

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