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Piping of sewage sludge across town to Hartland gets nod

Greater Victoria will pipe its sewage sludge across town to a plant at Hartland Landfill, because no better alternative can be found, politicians said Thursday.

Greater Victoria will pipe its sewage sludge across town to a plant at Hartland Landfill, because no better alternative can be found, politicians said Thursday.

After years of looking — and a failed bid to build at Viewfield Road in Esquimalt — the Capital Regional District sewage committee said Thursday that it thinks Hartland is the best location for a sludge facility.

The decision paves the way for the CRD’s independent sewage commission to put the sludge plant out to tender for construction in the spring of 2014.

The $783-million CRD plan calls for a treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt, with leftover sludge sent 18 kilometres to Hartland in Saanich using a pipeline that is to be buried along public right-of-ways through residential, commercial and institutional neighbourhoods.

CRD politicians voted to confirm Hartland at an in-camera meeting Oct. 9, and made the vote public Thursday.

The CRD said it examined 58 alternatives to Hartland in the last four years.

Politicians remained unhappy with Hartland as recently as July, calling it “insane” to pump sludge across the region.

CRD staff researched seven alternate sites in Saanich, View Royal and Langford — including land held by The Land Conservancy on Luxton Avenue in Langford, a site with power lines on Prospect Lake Road, agricultural land on Burnside Road, and previously-contaminated land at Millstream Meadows.

The committee felt the alternatives were just as far away as Hartland, and in many cases were too close to residences, said CRD sewage committee chairwoman Denise Blackwell.

Hartland, where the region’s garbage is buried, offers the possibility of adding kitchen waste to the sludge process, she said. “If you put it at Hartland, this is the beginning of an integrated waste management solution.”

Some CRD politicians have complained the search was constrained by the CRD’s unwillingness to consider agricultural land, expropriation and sites where people live within 300 metres.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said politicians have again been pressured into a decision based on concerns about the project’s timeline and about jeopardizing federal and provincial funding.

“Nobody yet has been able to convince me, around the table, that this is a good plan, or the best plan that we could come up with,” she said. “That's the frustration.”

Residents who live near Hartland are worried the sludge could contaminate nearby wells, lead to firefighting concerns and damage roads.

They expressed wariness at the CRD’s plan to begin public consultation.

“I think there’s going to be some talking, and not necessarily any action,” said Jeff Irwin, chairman of the Willis Point Community Association.

What will happen to the sludge after it is treated is still unknown.

Existing sewage plants on the Saanich Peninsula, Saltspring and in Sooke are dumping sludge into Hartland as waste.

The CRD said earlier this year that there are few buyers interested in using dried sludge as fuel in cement kilns, as it had originally planned. It will decide on Oct. 30 whether it should reverse a ban on applying sludge to land as fertilizer. But there’s opposition to putting human waste, containing heavy metals and pharmaceuticals, on farm land.

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