Esquimalt MLA, mayor up in arms over proposed sewage facility

Esquimalt’s MLA joined the town’s mayor Thursday in opposing a plan to build two sewage treatment facilities on prime Esquimalt property, calling it a “betrayal” of local taxpayers.

NDP MLA Maurine Karagianis said she refuses to accept a Capital Regional District proposal to build a sewage sludge facility on a Viewfield Road property that the CRD bought for $17 million.

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“We are very unhappy with the CRD about the choice of the Viewfield property,” Karagianis said.

“Frankly, this newest wrinkle … is a complete betrayal to the community and their expectations of what was to happen here with sewage treatment.”

Combined with a proposed secondary sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point and an existing sewage outfall at Macaulay Point, Esquimalt is in the unfair position of having three regional sewage facilities, Karagianis said.

Esquimalt residents had expected the biosolids-sludge site to be located at Hartland Landfill, and this is a “huge broken promise,” she said. “I don’t think there’s another community anywhere in the region that would want to have a sludge facility like this in the heart of their community.”

Karagianis’s comments carry particular weight because she’s a senior member of a B.C. NDP party that polls indicate has a substantial lead over the Liberals to win government in the May 14 provincial election.

If Esquimalt refuses CRD zoning requests for the sewage facilities, the CRD would have to appeal to the provincial government to override Esquimalt’s protests and force the plants.

Karagianis refused Thursday to speculate on how she and an NDP government would handle such a situation.

“Any future government wants to ensure this entire process is fair to this community and to all communities,” she said.

But she said she also expects the CRD to abandon the Viewfield Road idea and refocus on Hartland landfill.

Meanwhile, several other municipal politicians spoke up Thursday in favour of re-opening the issue of compensating Esquimalt for hosting all the sewage sites.

The CRD sewage committee, dominated by Saanich and Victoria, had previously voted down amenities for Esquimalt.

“We should make efforts to pay compensation, because we are indeed imposing costs on the host municipality,” said Victoria Coun. Geoff Young, a sewage committee member. He also said the CRD should pay local property taxes on its facilities.

Saanich Coun. Vic Derman supported compensation as well, saying the Viewfield Road plan was “wrong-headed” for Esquimalt. “I think it is a huge hit on Esquimalt’s present and possibly a huge hit on Esquimalt’s future.”

Saanich Coun. Susan Brice said compensation can be discussed, but other communities get little reward for hosting regional facilities such as Hartland landfill in Saanich.

rshaw@timescolonist.com

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