Clover Point wasn’t on the public’s radar during the most recent consultation process on sewage treatment options. And if everything goes according to plan for the Capital Regional District, a Clover Point facility will remain out of public view once completed.
The CRD is moving ahead with a proposal for a two-plant option to meet the region’s wastewater treatment needs – with plants constructed at Clover and either McLoughlin or Macaulay points, near the location of current sewage outfalls.
The Clover Point plant would be located on a 1.25-hectare parcel of land on the hillside above the current parking lot. That land was granted to the City of Victoria from the federal government in 1988 on the condition that it be used as parkland.
“Clover Point has to be underground to be socially acceptable, and it has to be done in a way that doesn’t smell, doesn’t cause major disruptions for the neighbourhood,” said Colin Plant, a Saanich councillor who sits on the core area liquid waste management committee.
It was Plant who suggested that CRD staff should investigate locating a plant on the site. A previous option for a solo treatment plant at Rock Bay had become bogged down with concerns over cost, particularly $250 million in pipes to convey treated effluent to existing outfalls.
Plant sees Clover Point as a compromise between those who wanted a single plant at McLoughlin and those who wanted a distributed option with a number of smaller plants. “I suggested it as a way to spread the burden of sewage treatment,” he said, adding there is no social licence for a single plant at McLoughlin after that option was rejected by Esquimalt in 2014.
While some expressed concerns over locating a plant in a residential neighbourhood at an oceanfront park, committee chair Lisa Helps called that a “20th-century argument.” The Victoria mayor said we now see treatment plants in the middle of downtowns and in close proximity to residences
Community speaks out on proposal
Wayne Hollohan, chair of the Fairfield Gonzales Community Association land use committee, said the organization didn’t learn about the proposed Clover Point plant until he received a March 9 email about the site gaining conditional approval from the CRD earlier that day.
“This idea is so new even to the CRD, that they do not have any actual plans for it (including) how much space will be required,” said Hollohan in a letter to Victoria council, suggesting the city is not following its own policy on civic engagement.
The association doesn’t speak on behalf of the community, but provides an opportunity for residents to voice concerns. Hollohan has his own worries about the future of this park he visits with his dog on a daily basis.
“I would say that section of Clover Point probably gets upwards of four times the amount of people as Beacon Hill Park. It is now becoming the crown jewel of Victoria with regards to tourists and people coming … to walk their dog,” he said.
Helps said the federal land grant serves as an assurance that Clover Point will look almost identical to what it is today, with the addition of such amenities as washrooms and public art.
Residents may not realize what is at Clover Point now. Underneath that grassy hillside where people fly kites and walk their dogs, is a pumping station, where 50 million litres of raw sewage is filtered, then pumped through the 1.2-kilometre outfall into Juan de Fuca Strait.
The pump station, built in the 1970s, serves close to 200,000 people. The new treatment plant would be built to a footprint that would meet requirements until at least 2045. It would initially handle flows of up to 48 million litres/day and treat the majority of eastside sewage.
Cost estimate at Clover Plant plant roughly $220 million
The treated effluent at Clover would be pumped through a new 250-metre outfall, with the existing longer outfall reserved for wet weather flows.
An advanced treatment plant at Clover Point is estimated to cost about $220 million of the $1.05-billion total project cost, although directors are confident those costs can be reduced.
But hurdles remain before construction gets underway. Perhaps the biggest is getting the site rezoned from its designation for single family residences.
Victoria Coun. Geoff Young favours a single site at McLoughlin Point and is confident the rezoning will fail.
“From the perspective of the taxpayer, we would be better off flipping a coin to determine a single site. This two-headed compromise has a cost of $250 million or so more than a single-site option,” he said. He expects to hear vocal opposition for the plan at the upcoming public hearing.
Helps said Clover Point was among the initial sites identified by Victoria council in 2015, and was green-lighted during the first phase of public consultations.
Clover Point has cleared the first road bump in the long path ahead, with Victoria council approving a motion establishing a number of conditions. Among them is the presentation by the CRD of a concept drawing of the underground plant to the Fairfield Gonzales Community Association.
The project must pass other regulatory hurdles, including a public hearing. If approvals are received, the plant is expected to take about 18 months to construct, with Victoria sharing in $20 million in public amenities provided to host communities.
How do other areas treat their sewage?
Construction of the Sooke collection system and wastewater treatment plant began in 2004 and the system was commissioned in November 2005. Individual domestic and commercial hook-ups began in January 2006 and continued throughout 2006 and 2007, with the majority completed by December 2006.
This secondary treatment system services a core area of approximately 5,500 residents.
The Saanich Peninsula wastewater plant is a secondary treatment facility with the capability to produce Class A biosolids. The plant commenced operation in 2000, replacing three individual CRD sewage treatment plants that were constructed in the early 1970’s.
In 2011, the treatment plant’s heat recovery system was commissioned. It recovers thermal energy from the effluent and supplies hot water to heat the Panorama Recreation Centre pool.
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