Esquimalt council resigned to sewage plant at McLoughlin Point

Esquimalt residents and council signalled their resignation to a regional sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point Monday night but they pretty much think it stinks.

There was talk of betrayal of the public process, having to take the hit for the rest of the capital region, neighbourhood chaos during impending pipeline construction from McLoughlin to the Hartland landfill and safety concerns unanswered by the expert panel that recommended McLoughlin.

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“I think it’s asinine to pump all that liquid waste up to Hartland,” Esquimalt resident Krisna Phosy said.

Jane LeBreton called the decision “a sellout” and John Fuller said he feared any odour that is forthcoming from the plant will go straight down the intakes of cruise ships at Ogden Point.

The Esquimalt Residents Association opposes the plant, chairman Nick Kovacs said. The way the location was decided “makes a complete mockery” of public consultation, he said.

Coun. Tim Morrison expressed anger that 30 months ago, council rejected rezoning changes the CRD needed at the time to put the plant at McLoughlin Point, yet is ending up “the sole community to be paying the price” of having a sewage plant for the region.

An expert panel recommended a plan with an estimated $765-million cost and McLoughlin as the location for a treatment plant. It does not need rezoning. Capital Regional District directors accepted the recommendation on Sept. 14. Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins was among the directors who gave approval, noting the amenity package offered to Esquimalt residents is much improved from an earlier one.

The CRD risked losing federal funding if it delayed a location decision beyond Sept. 30.

Esquimalt council asked township staff to seek more details. “This project is an improvement … but the devil is in the details,” said Coun. Lynda Hundleby.

The $55,000 per year that Esquimalt will be paid by the CRD is insufficient, she said. “My biggest concern is the site is in an earthquake zone and a tsunami zone,” Hundleby said. Information is needed on how well the plant will withstand a major earthquake, she said.

Fighting tears, Coun. Susan Low said: “I can’t celebrate this or pretend it’s going to be OK. I’m very disappointed and very upset at how this has turned out,” she said.

Desjardins has said her council can ensure the project meets community needs. The plan includes $20 million in amenities for Esquimalt, including an annual payment of $55,000, landscaping, a waterfront pathway, a tiered green roof and barging of materials for construction to save disruption and wear on Esquimalt roads.

But many people questioned how the $20 million will be spent, with Coun. Meagan Brame saying that sum includes mitigation — such as barging materials from Rock Bay to minimize truck traffic, which is the way it should be done, not some kind of special amenity.

“That $20 million should be a starting point,” said Songhees resident Robert Drew. “Get the CRD to cough up a little more.”

The money would be the first to go if there are cost overruns, Brame said. CRD and expert-panel reports did not have the detail she needs “for me to have a lot of faith in what is going to happen,” she said.

Coun. Beth Burton-Krahn said she did her weeping back in February when CRD directors “scuppered” an alternate approach.

She said she opposes the McLoughlin decision “with every ounce of my being,” but has to make sure it happens in the best way possible.

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