Municipalities to steer next steps in sewage treatment plan

Municipalities will steer the process to come up with options — including locations for sewage treatment plants — now that the Capital Regional District’s plan to build a plant at Esquimalt’s McLoughlin Point has collapsed.

CRD directors put off consideration of staff recommendations to hire a manager to investigate options for sewage treatment after West Shore mayors and Songhees First Nations Chief Ron Sam complained the process was flawed and they didn’t have enough input.

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The independent manager would have had no past affiliation with the current Seaterra program, the peer-review team or any other wastewater treatment study undertaken by the CRD. The manager would have a $400,000 budget to conduct an options study, according to a draft terms of reference. Staff were recommending the process be overseen by a fairness and transparency adviser.

According to a CRD staff report, the study would determine whether a sub-regional option can be found that meets regulatory requirements, falls within the approved funding of $788 million and can be completed within the established timelines.

But West Shore mayors have complained that the CRD has lost the public’s confidence and that new options for sewage treatment should come from the municipalities involved, operating under the umbrella of the CRD.

“I don’t think we should be trying to look for a terms of reference or some fairness adviser to try to tell the municipalities how to carry out public processes,” said Victoria Coun. Geoff Young, chairman of the CRD sewage committee.

Members of the committee postponed consideration of the options evaluation in order to give municipalities time to consult with CRD staff to come up with revised terms of reference for the process.

Under guiding principles suggested by Young and agreed to by CRD directors, municipalities would have authority over zoning for treatment plants and be responsible for designating sites within their boundaries.

Municipalities would also be responsible for determining the public process required for obtaining public approval for any sites they hosted.

“We have to be clear, the proposals that are made have got to satisfy the people who are offering us grants,” Young said.

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