Capital region sewage plan soundly rejected: poll

A new poll says those guiding the Capital Regional District’s $783-million sewage treatment plan are on a collision course with citizens.

The Sewage Treatment Action Group commissioned the poll, carried out by research company Popular Change. The poll found 76 per cent of 2,311 respondents from Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay are concerned about the sewage plan.

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“These results clearly show that the mayors and councillors sitting on the CRD board from these three key municipalities are on a collision course with their citizens,” Richard Atwell, director of the Sewage Treatment Action Group, which opposes the CRD plan, said in a statement.

“Citizens have lost confidence in the CRD as the regional waste manager. Seventy per cent want to see an independent review and they want time taken to develop an innovative plan.”

Victoria Coun. Geoff Young, chairman of the CRD’s liquid waste management committee, said the poll questions were leading.

But he said the CRD and some municipalities are indeed on a collision course if the regional government can’t be allowed to make economic decisions about where the sites are going to be.

The current sewage treatment plan, which would see a plant built at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt, evolved after estimates for a decentralized plan in 2009 were considered too expensive.

The options considered then were four sewage-treatment plants at a cost of about $1.2 billion, six plants for $1.6 billion and 11 plants for $2 billion.

Young said he took the job as chairman because he knew there was the potential for a lot of money to be spent wastefully, which he is striving to prevent.

“If there is going to be co-operation regionally, there has to be some way to reach agreement. And if we can’t, we have to go by majority rule,” Young said.

Representatives of Seaterra, the civilian commission overseeing the project, estimate that costs are mounting at a rate of $1 million every month the project is delayed.

Seaterra program director Albert Sweetnam denounced the poll results Sunday before they were released, saying the automated telephone poll contained loaded questions that were misleading and emotionally charged. He said they will lead to an inaccurate portrayal of public opinion.

“I made a firm commitment that we will correct any misinformation that's out there in the media,” Sweetnam said.

“This is complete misinformation, so I thought it needed to be addressed.”

The CRD has asked the province to intervene after Esquimalt council rejected the CRD’s bid to rezone a former oil tank farm at McLoughlin Point for a $230-million sewage treatment plant.

The site is zoned to allow wastewater treatment, but the CRD was seeking encroachments into a shoreline buffer and to increase the allowable height.

The rejection came after an extended public hearing that included more than 100 presentations.

charnett@timescolonist.com

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