New sewage treatment cost estimate: up to $1.3 billion

Rough cost estimates for the capital region’s sewage treatment options run between $1 billion and $1.3 billion — far in excess of the $788-million plan abandoned this year, according to reports going to Capital Regional District directors.

But those costs are expected to drop drastically as the project is refined, said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who chairs the CRD’s sewage treatment committee.

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“That [cost is] at a conceptual level. When the cost of the last plan was first costed in 2007, it was $1.2 billion and it came down to $788 million,” Helps said. “So there’s nothing alarming at all. It’s the same place that we started at when we started at a conceptual level with the last plan.”

The CRD is about to go to the public for feedback on five options for sewage treatment. They range from a single treatment plant at Victoria’s Rock Bay to seven plants around the region. All involve a large treatment plant at Rock Bay.

Estimates show that a single secondary-treatment plant, which would break down organic solids, at Rock Bay is the most affordable of all the options.

But it’s still not cheap.

Annual costs per household, after senior government grants, would range from a low of $252 in Colwood to a high of $583 a year in Oak Bay. The annual bill for homeowners in other municipalities would be: Saanich $369, Victoria $509, Esquimalt $465, View Royal $427, and Langford $412.

Costs jump — particularly for West Shore homeowners — as extra plants are added.

The cost of additional plants are to be paid for by the communities that use them. In Colwood, for example, the two-plant option would see a homeowner’s annual sewage bill jump to $766, compared to $252 for the single-plant option.

“That’s one of the things that Colwood residents and others will have to grapple with,” Helps said.

Costs per household for the seven-plant option range from $520 in Saanich to $1,023 in Esquimalt.

The CRD has been working feverishly to develop a new plan for sewage treatment in the hope of salvaging $253 million in senior government grants.

It was forced last year to abandon plans to put a sewage plant at McLoughlin Point after Esquimalt, responding to residents’ opposition, refused to rezone a former gasoline-tank property for a treatment plant.

The CRD has until March 2016 to submit a detailed plan for wastewater treatment or risk losing $83.4 million from federal Crown corporation PPP Canada. In addition to the PPP Canada grant, the federal government has committed $120 million from the Building Canada Fund and $50 million from the Canada Green Fund.

Greater Victoria currently screens its sewage before dumping it into Juan de Fuca Strait.

In 2006, the provincial government mandated sewage treatment. In 2012, the federal government passed a law requiring all high-risk Canadian cities — including Victoria — to provide secondary sewage treatment by 2020.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

 

Estimated costs for the five options

The Capital Regional District is considering five options, each with a different number of plants, to treat sewage. All provide at least secondary treatment — the level required by senior levels of government — while four include tertiary treatment that would result in water clean enough to be reused. There are higher resource recovery ambitions as the number of plants increases. Capital and operating costs for the options are estimated for 2030.

 

ONE PLANT — secondary treatment

ONE PLANT — tertiary treatment

Rock Bay

Capital costs: $1.031 billion to $1.130 billion

Consultants say the estimated capital cost of a single plant at Rock Bay would range from $1.031 billion to $1.130 billion depending on whether a secondary or tertiary treatment plant is built.

Annual operating costs: $21.8 million to $26.4 million

Annual resource recovery income: About $900,000

 

TWO PLANTS — secondary and tertiary treatment

Rock Bay and Colwood

Capital costs: $1.088 billion

Annual operating costs: $22.8 million

Annual resource recovery income: Up to $2.4 million

 

FOUR PLANTS — secondary and tertiary treatment

Rock Bay, Colwood, Esquimalt First Nation and East Saanich

Capital costs: $1.195 billion

Annual operating costs: $25.3 million

Annual resource recovery income: Up to $3.8 million

 

SEVEN PLANTS — secondary and tertiary treatment

Rock Bay, Colwood, Esquimalt, East Saanich, View Royal, Langford and Saanich core

Capital costs: $1.348 billion

Annual operating costs: $26 million

Annual resource recovery income: Up to $4 million

Source: Capital Regional District

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