Meeting to air worries about sewage-treatment project

Victoria residents, worried their concerns over noise, odour and traffic during sewage-treatment plant construction and operation are falling on deaf ears, will gather at the Coast Victoria Hotel Thursday to gather information and plot action.

“I’m urging everyone to attend,” said former Victoria councillor Shellie Gudgeon, a Vic West resident, who said she’s worried odour standards being set for the new plant’s operations aren’t rigorous enough.

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“It concerns me tremendously for the quality of life for the neighbourhoods of Vic West, James Bay and downtown,” Gudgeon said. She said odours are still an occasional problem with the small Dockside Green sewage treatment plant and those types of issues, if not addressed now, could become larger with the regional plant planned for McLoughlin Point.

Gudgeon stressed that she supports building a sewage-treatment plant.

“I just want to make sure the parameters are in place and standards are set with regard to quality of life for the prevailing winds. I want to make sure those are etched in stone at the outset because, otherwise, it will be all about cost savings,” she said.

The meeting was organized by residents of James Bay, Fairfield, downtown and Vic West who will be exposed to months of construction traffic and loud noise as drilling is done to run a sewage line from Ogden Point in to McLoughlin Point. If there are odours once the plant is operating, prevailing winds will carry them across the harbour to James Bay, they say.

Victorians have watched Esquimalt negotiate a $20-million amenity package for hosting the plant, including provisions to mitigate construction disruptions, while Victoria councillors have fallen short, they say.

“Esquimalt’s been very good at voicing the needs of their residents to the sewage board,” said Gudgeon.

“You hope that our City of Victoria elected officials will speak up for us, but I believe we need to prompt them — and this is how we’re going to prompt them.”

Upgrades will be made in and around the sewage pump station at Clover Point as part of the $765-million sewage-treatment project.

Improvements include: a public viewing plaza, public washrooms, bicycle facilities, a separate bike track along Dallas Road from Clover Point to Dock Street atop the buried sewage line, and a $100,000 amenity for James Bay to be determined through public consultation.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said she understands residents are concerned and said their questions will be addressed at community information meetings April 5 at the Hotel Grand Pacific and April 12 at the Royal Canadian Legion’s Esquimalt branch.

She said the project team has been focused on getting land-use approval from both Esquimalt and Victoria and getting a construction agreement signed in order to preserve senior government funding.

“Yes, there’s been a lack of trust with this project for the last 30 years — why should we expect anything different now — but I really do hope we can turn the page on this,” Helps said.

“At the April 5th open house there’s going to be a station on odour, a station on noise, a station on construction mitigation. There will be detailed information available.”

James Bay Neighbourhood Association president Marg Gardiner said the Thursday forum is not being organized by her association but funded and organized by local residents who have concerns.

Gardiner is concerned about the impact the sewage-treatment plan will have on the Dallas bluffs. She doesn’t believe the project board gave adequate consideration to an option of running the sewage line on the seabed from Clover Point to McLoughlin instead of drilling to bury the line under the harbour between McLoughlin and Ogden points.

The project board maintains state-of-the-art odour-control systems will reduce odour emissions to a level not detectable by residents.

Project director Dave Clancy recently told Victoria the seabed concept has been explored but there are making it less attractive. Those include the potential of disturbing contaminated seabed, the fact there’s a migratory bird habitat in the area, difficulty with maintenance of an undersea pipe, and cost and difficulty of repair if there were a break.

He said the undersea route is not believed to provide a substantial cost saving and would require a full environmental impact assessment that could take more than 18 months. That would push completion of the project past the 2020 deadline.

Gardiner said many of those arguments don’t wash.

“They were saying the CRD wouldn’t have experience in maintaining a seabed route. Well, I don’t think they have experience in maintaining one that’s 60 metres under either,” Gardiner said.

Arguments that there’s no time to consider the seabed route also don’t add up because if it were chosen, construction time would be a fraction of what’s currently contemplated, she said.

Clancy told councillors the treatment plant is to be built to industry standards for operation in residential areas, and noise and odours should not be an issue.

Construction is anticipated to begin at both McLoughlin and Ogden next month, with completion on Nov. 20, 2020.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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