Discouraged by lengthy process, CRD abandons CFB Esquimalt as possible sewage site

The Capital Regional District will no longer pursue CFB Esquimalt land as a possible site for a sewage-treatment plant or sludge facility.

The prospect of a lengthy, complex federal approval process is the main reason behind the decision announced Friday, said CRD sewage committee chairwoman Denise Blackwell.

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“We had asked for some land, but the process takes so long,” she said. “We just want to make sure that the funds are still in place, and they told us it would take years.

“We really need more certainty than that. Otherwise, the private sector won’t bid on it.”

The CRD said long delays could mean higher construction costs due to inflation.

Blackwell said the right parcel of federal land could have allowed the CRD to put the main plant and a sludge or biosolids facility next to each other. As it stands, options for dealing with sewage sludge are being considered at the Hartland landfill and a controversial site on Esquimalt’s Viewfield Road.

“If we could have gotten land, for example, at Macaulay Point, right beside where we have our current pump station, then we could put the whole plant on one site,” Blackwell said. “Or if we could have gotten some of [the federal] land that’s beside McLoughlin Point, we could put the whole thing on one site.

“We just haven’t been able to find a piece of land where we can put both things together.”

The CRD sent a request to the federal government in February asking it to take another look at selling or leasing 1.6 hectares of land next to the McLoughlin site already chosen for sewage treatment. That was followed by an April letter from the CRD expressing an interest in four hectares at Macaulay for a combined treatment plant and biosolids facility.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins pointed out that the municipality has long expressed opposition to having regional sewage treatment at Macaulay Point.

“I’m disappointed that they even pursued it, but pleased that they’re not going to follow through.”

Desjardins added that the current McLoughlin site is clearly too small because it can’t accommodate both sewage treatment and processing of biosolids. That has led to the ongoing issue of where a biosolids plant should go, she said.

“It all comes down to putting a size 14 foot into a size five shoe, and you can’t do it.”

The federal process in dealing with the CRD would involve a number of steps, such as assessing whether the land is needed by the Department of Defence, conducting the federal government’s own environmental assessment and reaching a formal agreement with First Nations. Building on federal land also raises the possibility of having to renegotiate current funding agreements.

A series of eight open houses on the Hartland landfill and Viewfield Road options for dealing with biosolids begins June 17 with a 4-8 p.m. session at the Esquimalt Legion, 622 Admirals Rd. Other sessions are June 18-20 and June 24-27 at a variety of locations around the region.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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