Letter: Sewage a runaway train

Letter to the Editor from the March 2 Saanich News

Victoria mayor and Chair of the CRD’s wastewater committee, Lisa Helps has her sights set on “bringing the sewage train into the station,” no matter what the cost.

But let’s look at the cost.

First, there is the cost to due public process. We were promised an opportunity for full public engagement and input was sought that would allow us – the paying public – to fairly and objectively review the whole sorry mess. Instead what we got was an opportunity to waste our time.

The committee has already identified the site (Rock Bay) and since none of the proposed solutions for this site are within CRD’s own budget ceiling of $750 million it has effectively limited even the choice of the “options” to just one, a single plant at Rock Bay. This is simply political theater and not the fair and open public process we were promised.

This is a high cost.

Second, there is the cost to our municipalities. Since this “train” took off under Ms. Help’s control the affected municipalities have become so fractured and disenchanted with the committee they have simply abandoned the process and those still remaining are fractured.

Ms. Helps has incorrectly stated that municipalities going it alone will automatically forfeit any financial help from the CRD. By taking such a position, Victoria will  gain a bigger share of public funds for at the expense of the other municipalities in the CRD. This is not how the CRD should work and furthermore it’s a clear conflict of interest. This could cost in the hundreds of millions in lost financial support for the other municipalities.

Third, there is the cost to the environment. Recent events in marine science research – conducted by Department of Oceans and Fisheries’ own researchers – have concluded that the current proposed, multi-billion dollar,  land-based sewage treatment approach will have a negligible benefit to the marine environment, but even more alarming is that ongoing studies indicate that sediments in the vicinity of Vancouver outfalls having secondary treatment have higher levels of PBDE’s (a chemical compound used as a flame retardant) than the naturally processed sediments off Victoria’s two outfalls. This suggests we will do more harm than good to the marine environment by excessive treating, since nutrients required by marine organisms to help break down these compounds would be removed from their environment.

Fourth there is the cost to our credibility and the planet. Canada has just made a world leading commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, yet consultants to the Capital Regional District have estimated construction of a treatment system will produce 15,516 tonnes of GHGs, with operation of the system producing 7,917 tonnes of GHGs annually. This is a huge, ongoing, and damaging cost to the environment and our credibility. We can’t suck and blow at the same time.

Finally, there is the real doozy, the out-of-pocket cost to design, buy the site from Victoria, then build, and operate the proposed plant. The CRD’s “cheapest” plan is over $1 billion – just to get started.  Realistically, these are just pie-in-the sky numbers that will just explode as this “train” speeds ahead since there is no actual hard-costed plan in place with this proposal. It is just a financial fantasy.

More realistic financial analysis done by experienced professionals in the field have put the true life-cycle costs of the project at over $5 billion.

These costs are just too high. It’s time to derail this runaway “train” before it demolishes the entire station.

Paul Scrimger



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