NDP says it wouldn't force sludge plant on Esquimalt if party wins government

Esquimalt won’t be forced to accept a sewage sludge plant if the NDP wins government, the party says.

Carole James, the party’s platform co-chair, said an NDP government would not consider overruling Esquimalt if the township refused to rezone a Viewfield Road property to allow a sewage biosolids facility.

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“The answer is no,” James said. “That’s why we’ve said go back and consult again, go back and re-look at the plan, go back and look at what other possibilities might be there.”

Esquimalt residents expressed outrage last month when the Capital Regional District announced it had negotiated in secret to buy the Wilson Foods warehouse site on Viewfield Road for $17 million, as a potential location for the region’s biosolids plant.

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The site is near numerous houses as well as schools and small businesses.

For a sludge facility to be built there, Esquimalt council must first rezone the land.

If Esquimalt refuses, the CRD’s only option is to appeal to the B.C. government to override the town.

By signalling its refusal in advance, the NDP has potentially neutered the CRD’s ability to push the project over Esquimalt’s objection.

“I’m very pleased to hear that,” said Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins. “It’s of significant comfort.”

The CRD had originally proposed to treat sewage sludge at Hartland landfill in Saanich. It has said it might still use that location — and sell the Viewfield property — depending on public reaction.

The $783-million CRD sewage plan also calls for a secondary treatment facility at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt.

“It’s pretty clear the public has some very valid questions on the existing plan,” James said.

“Viewfield obviously raised that [concern], but there were questions before that, as well. We believe in sewage treatment but also believe we should take a step back and do a better job of engaging the public on the plan that’s there and look at whether we can find improvements.”

Esquimalt-Royal Roads Liberal candidate Chris Ricketts said he is also opposed to the provincial government overruling Esquimalt’s wishes, but said he doesn’t speak for his party’s position if it wins re-election on May 14.

The latest sewage developments are likely to be closely examined by the newly formed independent sewage commission, which holds its first meeting today.

That commission of technical experts, which was required by the B.C. government as part of its one-third share of the costs, will take over day-to-day decision-making from local politicians.

rshaw@timescolonist.com

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