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McLoughlin Point, Rock Bay on sewage treatment site short list

McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt and Victoria’s Rock Bay have been shortlisted as potential locations for a new sewage treatment plant in the capital region.
McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt is one of the sites being considered for a sewage treatment plant.

McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt and Victoria’s Rock Bay have been shortlisted as potential locations for a new sewage treatment plant in the capital region.

The independent panel overseeing the project released an interim report Wednesday that presents three options:

• A single plant at McLoughlin Point;

• A single plant at Rock Bay;

• Two smaller plants — one at Rock Bay and the other at McLoughlin Point.

The report by the Core Area Waste Water Treatment Project Board said the estimated project costs range from $750 million to $1.1 billion.

The seven-member panel will now assess the shortlisted locations in more detail before releasing its final report and recommendation on Sept. 7.

Each option will provide secondary sewage treatment, but the panel is still looking at the value of adding more advanced or tertiary treatment.

In all cases, leftover sludge would be transported to the Hartland landfill in Saanich.

The panel ruled out several other possibilities, including building a plant at Clover Point or constructing multiple small facilities across the region.

Panel chairwoman Jane Bird said each proposal was assessed based on the need to keep costs down, enhance livability of neighbourhoods and make the most of opportunities to recover resources and reduce greenhouse gases.

“And Clover Point didn’t make it through the screening criteria as favourably as Rock Bay and as McLoughlin Point did,” she said.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said Fairfield residents “can relax now, which I think is a good thing, because [Clover Point] really was a very cobbled-together option in the first place.”

She said the Rock Bay option has “some support” if it’s done well and sensitively. “What we all should be looking for is a solid business case that demonstrates value for money.”

The project board will conduct detailed cost estimates of the shortlisted options over the next few weeks and rank each of them based on economic, social, environmental and other benefits.

Bird said cost will be just one of the deciding factors, “because while that’s important, if it was just a little bit more to add tertiary [treatment], you might want to recommend that.”

The cost estimates include unspecified perks for the host municipality.

“I think we’ve heard loud and clear, based on our review of the material, that it would be appropriate to provide some sort of amenity package, so we’ve assumed that in our costing,” Bird said.

Esquimalt rejected a single plant at McLoughlin Point once before, and Mayor Barb Desjardins said her council and residents will be particularly interested in details missing from the interim report, such as whether the plant will offer tertiary treatment.

“These are all the things that are important to everyone,” she said. “We don’t have that information yet. So they still have some work to do.”

CRD director and Saanich Coun. Vic Derman said the project team did the best it could given its “unrealistic timeline,” but he expressed disappointment with the “rehashed” proposals and lack of innovation on the short list.

“It’s a big step backward,” he said.

The board’s final report will go to the CRD board on Sept. 14. The district has final say on the matter, but it’s under pressure to submit a formal business case to the provincial and federal governments by Sept. 30 or risk losing up to $500 million in grants.

Helps said the CRD has “little to no flexibility” to go a different way, but she expressed confidence in the project board.

“I expect a solid, professional, independent, non-political business case to be brought to us on the 7th, and if all of those things happen, I don’t see any reason why the board wouldn’t adopt the recommendation and move forward,” she said.