Saanich mayor the lone vote opposed to sewage plant location

Richard Atwell calls the proposed sewage treatment facility "the last of the dinosaur sewage systems using anaerobic digestion"

Despite being outvoted 14-1 when the Capital Regional District directors approved the new Core Area Wastewater Treatment plan last week, Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell refused to back down.

The first-term mayor was elected in part because of his connection as a founder of the RITE plan. He’s pushed for gasification as a technology since the RITE plan first appeared in 2013, and it’s a position he continues to support.

“We are not building an innovative project,” Atwell said. “Instead, it’s the last of the dinosaur sewage systems using anaerobic digestion, which is going the way of the dodo. We should be [recovering and] collecting water. All this is going to do is flush the water into the ocean.”

Atwell also said the Core Area Wastewater Treatment Project Board’s business case has bargained away $47 million of promised funds while bumping up the CRD costs by $30 million.

The McLoughlin Point plant proposal does include partial tertiary treatment of the biosolids before they are piped to Hartland, but it is not enough for Atwell.

Regardless, others were clearly ready to approve the project, including Esquimalt Mayor and CRD board chair Barb Desjardins, who was part of the Esquimalt council that scuttled McLoughlin Point as a solution two years ago.

“I know that I can stand up and say the project board has listened to our residents and to the community,” said Desjardins, adding there are still a number of questions the township has. “I anticipate further dialogue once this decision has been made. Are there some things we could have done better? Maybe. But we don’t have time.”

According to project board chair Jane Bird, the latest project has a much smaller footprint, larger setbacks and is significantly less money than the previous plan.

Director and Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen, who was scoffed at for attempting to bring McLoughlin Point back to the table before the project board was put in place, said the plan is “not perfect” but is a good plan.

Carol Hamilton, CRD director and Colwood mayor, hopes the board will not forget about its commitment $2 million to complete the required technical studies and environmental impact assessments regarding the possibility of another wastewater treatment proposal in the future to help serve the booming population in the West Shore.

“I’m not sure of when the timing is to look at another plant in Colwood. [If] we wait 20 years, it becomes old and dusty and you lose the benefit of the gift that we’re getting now,” she said.

Atwell has supported Colwood’s desire for its own plant, believing it would use innovative technology including gasification of sludge and water recovery.

Coun. Fred Haynes was critical of Atwell, however, noting the mayor has failed to rally support after nearly two years on the CRD board of directors.


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