Comment: It’s time for collaborative solutions to sewage

People in the core-area communities are already paying too much for a sewage-treatment plan that can never happen. It is past time for our region to get moving on high-quality, affordable sewage treatment.

The City of Colwood is moving forward with a small-footprint wastewater-treatment facility. Our goals are simple: To treat sewage to high environmental standards, to create economic benefits for our community and to do it for less than what is proposed under the (now defunct) Capital Regional District plan.

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Since each community must pay for sewage treatment, it makes sense that each community gains some of the economic benefits. The heat generated can be used in a district energy system to reduce energy costs for other buildings nearby (this is significant when you consider rising B.C. Hydro rates). The reclaimed water can be used to reduce irrigation costs in nearby parks, golf courses, recreation centres and other facilities.

And there is the potential to include commercial space and create local jobs. (Small plants can be built by local contractors, whereas huge plants tend to be built by multinationals.)

This thinking is shared by others. The four west-side mayors (Langford, Colwood, View Royal and Esquimalt) and the Songhees chief have met with the minister of environment about a series of facilities that would affordably service their communities.

The CRD says a system of distributed plants will take too long to build. Not true. Colwood has a site and aims to have its system operational by 2017, well before the 2020 federal deadline. Our residents have been overwhelmingly supportive of this approach, despite CRD fearmongering that it will be hard to find sites.

Esquimalt is working with its residents and the Cascadia Green Building Council on a concept for a similar plant in the heart of Esquimalt. Their kickoff workshop was well attended by local residents championing this idea. The City of Victoria deserves kudos for exploring a similar approach.

The CRD says smaller systems will be more costly. Not true. A new plant in Sechelt, big enough for a population the size of Colwood, is being built at a cost of about $25 million, with more than 50 per cent coming from grants for innovation. This is far below the estimate of $125 million included for a facility of similar capacity in the CRD’s study of distributed plants.

If the CRD is to meet federal deadlines and retain the federal-provincial funding, it is time to champion initiatives that look for affordable and innovative solutions. The CRD staff and board need to get behind those who are making things happen and assist in whatever way they can. It’s time for positive thinking, not complaining that “we don’t have a solution.”

Some of us do. Let’s get on with it.

 

Carol Hamilton is mayor of Colwood.

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