A year after Capital Regional District pushed the reset button on sewage treatment plans, local politicians will today debate whether they were right in the first place and should be taking a second look at McLoughlin Point.
The idea to revisit McLoughlin comes from Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen, who argues that hundreds of millions of dollars in potential savings are too big to ignore and that by building the plant at McLoughlin, which the CRD owns, the region could still meet the federal government’s 2020 deadline for having treatment in place.
“My own view is very strongly that we cannot take McLoughlin off the table,” said Victoria Coun. Geoff Young, a former CRD chairman.
Others, such as Esquimalt Mayor and current CRD chairwoman Barb Desjardins, say McLoughlin is a non-starter.
“I think it would send a bad message, a wrong message to funders, to everyone. I think it’s just added confusion,” she said.
Stymied by Esquimalt’s decision more than a year ago not to approve minor zoning variances that would have permitted a treatment plant at McLoughlin, and the province’s subsequent decision not to override it, the CRD began looking for alternatives that would have community support. This time, the only sites to be considered would have to be put forward by the municipalities themselves. A sense of urgency has accompanied the hunt for a new site as federal regulations stipulate the new wastewater plant must be up and running by 2020 (a deadline the CRD is now acknowledging it can’t meet with a new plan). The clock is ticking on about $83 million in federal funding from PPP Canada, which, already under a one-year extension, is due to expire March 31.
CRD staff are recommending a single tertiary treatment plant be built on B.C. Hydro/Transport Canada lands in Victoria’s Rock Bay. Provision would be made for a second plant to service Colwood on municipally owned land at the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Island Highway to be phased in. Hartland landfill would be the preferred site for sludge treatment.
If that fails, staff are recommending as an alternative that Rock Bay be selected as a place- holder site while submissions are sought for an integrated liquid and solid waste treatment solution. The estimated cost of the previous plan was $788 million, including an accepted tender from Harbour Resource Partners to build a secondary sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin for $170 million.
Desjardins said the cost difference between the McLoughlin project and the current proposal at Rock Bay is expected to shrink.
“We know that our costs now are very, very conservative. We also know we have yet to throw in innovation and we also know that our project charter says we’ve got to reduce those costs. So, in the same way that McLoughlin started out at $1.2 billion, I would anticipate that this project would come down as well,” Desjardins said.
Sewage committee chairwoman Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said she has no idea what directors will decide today, if they make a decision at all. Time has been set aside Friday in the event the committee needs it.
“There are divergent opinions at the table, for sure. But I think the majority of people want us to get this project done in a cost- effective way that has environmental benefit and allows us to keep the funding,” Helps said.
The current cost estimate for the new plan is $1.13 billion, with the liquid treatment plant at Rock Bay estimated at $393 million. But there are about $300 million in other charges for locating at Rock Bay, mostly for new pipes to get the sewage there and then back to the outfalls. Those costs include: $32.5 million for a new outfall at Clover Point, $83.9 million for a pumping station and conveyance to Clover Point, $51 million for a pumping station and force main to Rock Bay, $65 million for a Macaulay Point pumping station and force main to Rock Bay and $67.2 million for land.
Harbour Resource Partners has told the CRD that returning to the proposal to build at McLoughlin Point is the best option.
Young said the disruption associated with chewing up roads such as Cook Street to lay new sewer pipes between Clover Point and Rock Bay would be enormous.