Opponents of CRD sewage plan offer a proposal of their own

Opponents of Greater Victoria’s sewage treatment plan have pitched yet another alternative, this time involving a system of 15 smaller plants with a higher level of treatment, and gasification technology that could also handle the region’s garbage and kitchen scraps.

The proposal, which advocates say could save the region millions over the long term, would replace the Capital Regional District’s current plan for a single treatment facility at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt and a biosolid sludge centre at Hartland landfill in Saanich.

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However, it would also need the backing of politicians on the CRD’s sewage committee, where a majority of directors have consistently voted to reject delays and proceed with the current plan.

“People are looking for a better alternative,” said Richard Atwell, who unveiled the proposal — dubbed the “RITE Plan” — on Thursday on behalf of the Sewage Treatment Action Group.

“They’ve been complaining about it for a long time and nothing has been offered. The benefits [of the current plan] are simply too low for the cost. I think the time is right.”

Atwell’s proposal is estimated at roughly $650 million, compared with the current plan of $783 million.

The idea involves up to 15 small sewage treatment plants at existing CRD-owned pump site locations across the region.

The plants would be built with tertiary treatment technology, similar to what’s being used at Dockside Green in Vic West and the massive Brightwater sewage system in Washington state. It involves a higher level of treatment that would treat more waste and contaminants than the secondary treatment called for in the CRD plan.

Under the CRD proposal, the leftover sludge would be piped 18 kilometres to Hartland landfill, where it would be dried to be used as either fuel or fertilizer.

Instead, Atwell said, the CRD should build a gasification plant that would use high heat to reduce sludge to gas.

Gasification would have the added benefit of destroying the CRD’s garbage at Hartland, as well as regional kitchen scraps. The CRD is struggling to figure out what to do with food scraps, after it pulled the licence of the region’s only composter, Foundation Organics in Central Saanich, due to odour complaints.

“The idea is to combine all of these waste streams together into one waste-to-energy facility that you pay for once and it takes care of everything,” Atwell said.

Having one facility handle sewage, garbage and kitchen scraps would mean the CRD doesn’t need to build a separate garbage incinerator or gasifier in the future, saving hundreds of millions of dollars, said Atwell.

Gasification has been raised as an idea by CRD director Vic Derman for several years, but CRD engineers have argued the technology is unproven for sewage and kitchen scraps.

“Gasification is clearly a proven technology,” Derman said. “It’s been around for over 100 years and has been used on a large scale.” It’s also cleaner than incinerating waste, he said.

The B.C. government will allow only incineration or gasification if a landfill diverts at least a 70 per cent of waste to recycling, said CRD spokesman Andy Orr. The current CRD diversion rate is 50 per cent.

Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Andrew Weaver praised Atwell’s proposal.

“It’s innovative, it’s distributed and it’s dealing with the problem,” the Green MLA said. “It’s integrating solid and liquid waste management, which is the way of the future.”

Weaver said CRD made mistakes in planning, and encouraged it to ask the government for more time to consider a new sewage plan.

The CRD wants to sign the first plant construction contracts in early 2014, with project completion in 2018.

rshaw@timescolonist.com

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