Our View: Sewage forum comes too late

Last week, a group of concerned citizens hosted a meeting to discuss plans for creating sewage treatment in Greater Victoria.

Spearheaded by residents from Esquimalt, where the main treatment plant will be located, the event drew about 100 people from both sides of the treatment fence. Members of ARESST (Association for Responsible and Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment), who have argued against the need for the level of treatment ordered by the province, were prominent.

We needed such a meeting more than four years ago, when the government dropped the hammer and ordered the Capital Regional District to get going on sewage treatment.

At that time, there might have been enough backlash to force the province to take a more serious look at not only the cost implications to taxpayers, but the impact of pumping sewage out into Juan de Fuca Strait.

Since then, the CRD’s liquid waste management committee and environment department staffers have focused on securing land for a treatment plant and developing a plan for the operational infrastructure. Millions of dollars have already been spent.

We respect the efforts of the forum organizers. In fact, we supported a team of scientists and consultants who, in October 2007, argued that polluted storm water, not sewage, is more harmful to the marine environment. Bringing up similar arguments today will fall on deaf ears. The ball started rolling a long time ago and it isn’t about to stop.

Some folks may believe having a new premier and a new environment minister (ex-Kamloops mayor Terry Lake) presents a window of opportunity to beat the drum again to convince the public that the brakes can still be put on.

But too much black water has run through the pipes. The most pressing need today is to work with the CRD to ensure the level of treatment and the facilities that are built are appropriate for now and in the future, so we don’t have to go through another long, drawn-out exercise.