One day after Rock Bay and McLoughlin Point were shortlisted as sites for a centralized sewage treatment plan, Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell spoke out in support of a decentralized sewage option.
It’s late, but Atwell is hoping that even in the face of the looming Sept. 7 deadline, the province-appointed project board will seriously consider the cheaper and more environmentally friendly plan that comes with decentralized treatment plants.
The technologies used in decentralized plants are some of the same that the CRD’s integrated resource management task force, which Atwell is part of, are interested in despite being mostly shutout of the project board’s work. But last week, the most advanced proposal for decentralized plants, which would use local sewage plants instead of one or two plants for the entire region, was presented to the project board by Saanich-based Aqua-Tex Scientific Consulting on Aug. 25.
It suggests decentralized, local plants provide tertiary sewage treatment that will be cheaper and better for the environment than the centralized secondary treatment being proposed. The centralized strategy is estimated to cost between $750 million and $1.1 billion, whereas applying the decentralized proposal across the region could be as low as $350 million, Atwell said.
“What [Aqua-Tex] is proposing is how every municipality should be treating their sewage, and it’s already happening all over the [United States],” Atwell said.
A powerpoint chart says the sewage treatment cost would be $34 per household, $50 per house in Langford, whereas the current model will be more than $500 per Saanich household, Atwell added. Smaller plants also give you an added ability to use the wastewater constructively. It can be treated to a point of usability, possibility to water local fields or flush toilets, such as at Dockside Green. On a centralized plan, the amount of wastewater at one or two regional plants is too great to deal with, and must be sent to sea, Atwell added.
In the meantime, the province-appointed project board will submit a final set of recommendations for core area wastewater treatment for Sept. 7, which, based on using Rock Bay and/or McLoughlin Point, is the centralized model. The Capital Regional District board will then decide which option to move forward with.
If selected, taxpayers will overspend on what is soon becoming obsolete technology, Atwell said.
“It’s technology that hasn’t been shared with the public,” Atwell said. “The [decentralized] proposal has been third-party, peer reviewed. I don’t know how the project board can ignore the work coming out of [Aqua-Tex], it’s ground breaking, socially acceptable, environmentally beneficial, financially beneficial.”
The local plants would deliver tertiary treatment that recovers heat and electricity from the sludge’s incineration process. It’s a cheaper and easier solution that leaves a residual of 50 per cent water and 10 per cent ash to deal with instead of the 50 per cent biosolids, Atwell said. Local plants would also avoid the Rock Bay/McLoughlin plan to pump sludge 18 kilometres up to Hartland, and then pump the wastewater back down to outfalls.
Colwood council has unofficially endorsed the Aqua-Tex proposal, though it’s ultimately up to the project board to include it in its recommendation.
If Rock Bay is used, either on its own or in tandem with McLoughlin Point, it will require hundreds of millions of dollars of piping infrastructure to get the sewage there. Plus, it has no outfall, which will mean Cook Street or another artery that runs to the ocean will be ripped open for up to a year, to install new pipes so the effluent can be pumped out to sea from Dallas Road, Atwell said.
On Thursday night, the local RITE Plan Coalition is hosting a presentation called Smart Sewers, Turning Wastes into Resources, with keynote speaker Ed Clerico, a leading engineer who’s company, Natural Systems Utilities, operates 210 decentralized sewage facilities in the United States.
The presentation is from 7 to 9 p.m. in room A102 of the David Turpin Building.