Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps dismissed Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell’s “musings” about a made-in-Saanich sewage solution Tuesday, urging residents to focus instead on Capital Regional District treatment options now going out for public comment.
“I don’t want to focus on Mayor Atwell’s musings. Mayor Atwell can muse all he wants,” Helps told reporters at the launch of the second phase of public consultation into sewage treatment options.
“A musing is not the same thing as a motion before council so if Saanich council is interested in going in this direction then I think we have some serious things to consider. But right now what we’re focused on is public engagements on the approved options which Mayor Atwell voted in favour of as did [Oak Bay] Mayor [Nils] Jensen at the CRD table.”
Atwell, vice-chairman of the CRD sewage committee, said Monday in his annual address to Saanich council that if the CRD can’t get its act together on sewage treatment by the end of this year, he will recommend investigating a made-in-Saanich solution for treating liquid waste or solid waste that is the byproduct from wastewater treatment plants or both.
Saanich Coun. Colin Plant, who was caught off guard by Atwell’s remarks, said there is no plan in his municipality to derail the CRD sewage treatment plans.
“At this point the CRD is undertaking a consultation process and we’ll see how that goes. And if that does not work out, I think it would be prudent for Saanich taxpayers to look at a different option set. But at this point we’re not trying to derail the system that’s in place by the CRD,” said Plant, who was at the CRD public consultation launch.
Jensen, meanwhile, is urging the CRD to again consider building a single regional treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt. In 2010, McLoughlin Point was chosen by the CRD as the preferred location for a regional plant. Overall costs of that plan were estimated at $788 million, including a tendered bid to build the plant at McLoughlin for $179 million. But the CRD abandoned McLoughlin after Esquimalt refused to grant variances to zoning so that a plant could be built there and the province refused to override that decision.
The CRD is now looking at options ranging from a single plant to seven plants. The cheapest option, with a single plant at Rock Bay, is estimated to cost $1.031 billion. Cost of the plant alone, including land, is pegged at $459.2 million. Cost for a treatment system using seven plants would jump to $1.348 billion.
Jensen argues that with costs to local taxpayers projected to double or triple for the new treatment options, McLoughlin should be revisited. His motion is slated to be debated at the CRD today.
With a March 31 deadline for $84 million in federal funding for the project drawing near, Helps, chairwoman of the CRD’s sewage committee, was joined by Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton, chairwoman of the westside sewage committee, to launch a new online survey on sewage treatment options and to officially open a new CRD storefront at 625 Fisgard St. where residents can get information on sewage treatment.
Helps said despite the “distractions” of Jensen and Atwell, she remains “focused on the finish line, which is implementing a project that has public support in this region to treat our sewage.”
She acknowledged that she is frustrated by the comments from Atwell and Jensen, but said her job at this stage is to steward the process in order to narrow the field of options so that the federal contribution agreement is signed.
“We have to indicate to the funders once and for all that we have a plan that the public supports. That’s what we’re looking for right now. What will the public support?” Helps said.
“I would really encourage the public to look at the options before us, to go to coreareawastewater.ca, look at the options. Give us real input. Let me sort out the distractions and political shenanigans.”