Sewage task force seeks alternative plan

Report explores a series of new and overlooked technologies to be included in the ultimate core area wastewater management plan

The highly anticipated report from the Capital Regional District’s special task force on Integrated Resource Management is due later this month and will explore a series of new and overlooked technologies to be included in the ultimate core area wastewater management plan.

However, Saanich Coun. Vic Derman isn’t so sure the rest of the CRD’s board of directors are still open to new ideas at this stage of the process.

Among the most enticing of the alternative technologies and systems to be considered are the potentially money-saving additions of advanced gasification, which turns municipal solid waste, or biosolids, into energy.

“It certainly looks promising that an integrated waste management approach can be found,” said Derman, who chairs the task force. “We need to take advantage of not paying for [treatment] sites, take advantage of not building many new pipes, reducing pumping needs, create less operating costs, and use the heat produced in the biosolids and liquid sides.”

Some theories suggest enough heat can be captured, and sold, a model that generates new money. According to a Pivotal IRM report submitted to the task force, advanced gasification is already underway at 11 plants in the U.S. and Europe. The Pivotal IRM report option would avoid the estimated $341 million for the land at Rock Bay, where a centralized plant would need new pipe conveyancing and still be outfall dependant. Instead, it suggests an IRM tertiary approach that would use about six smaller plants on smaller sites, including pump stations already in use.

Among the nine-person committee are Saanich’s Mayor Richard Atwell and Coun. Colin Plant. Each have faith that it is not too late to explore new options and, like Derman, are keen to find alternate options to the current options, costing between $1.1 and $1.3 billion, currently on the CRD’s wastewater management public survey.

However, despite assurances that better options can come forward to the CRD’s Core Area Liquid Wastewater Management committee in the future and from the IRM task force, Derman is concerned that the set of options are becoming permanent in the minds of some CRD board members.

“…The last meeting, the tone changed, it was an indication we are making final decisions and I don’t think that’s acceptable,” Derman said. “So what [Plant] and I said  two meetings ago, was that we could move forward.”

All seven of the CRD’s options at the moment include Rock Bay, a site Derman is not keen on.

“Rock Bay is not close to any infrastructure, so if you look at a single plant at Rock Bay, the cost to build new pipes to get sewage there and back is $250 million, which immediately tells me it’s the wrong site,” Derman said.

The CRD will also have to purchase property at Rock Bay, which is very expensive and will cost well into the millions.

Derman says the coming report will likely challenge the original charter for the core area waste management plan, in particular an obligation to meet climate change needs.

“The task force is an emerging opportunity to do something world leading, something that saves taxpayers a lot of money and responds to climate change,” Derman said.

“In the end, technology is important, the siting is important, and the real innovation comes in how someone takes those things and marries them into best possible system design.”