Victoria sewage treatment jeopardized by local politics; raw effluent still flows into Strait across from Peninsula
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Victoria News
McLoughlin Point at the entrance to Victoria Harbour has been ruled out as a site to build the Victoria region's first sewage treatment plant.
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Map by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

Peninsula Daily News and Victoria News

VICTORIA — A program to bring sewage treatment to Victoria and surrounding cities before 2020 is now in jeopardy because of local politics that voided the treatment plant site.

The regional government agency in charge of building the treatment plant took McLoughlin Point — on the west side of the entrance to Victoria Harbour — off the table late Tuesday.

The decision followed a ruling earlier Tuesday by the British Columbia environment minister, Mary Polak, that the province wouldn't meddle in local decision-making.

Her decision was in response to the Esquimalt Township Council — in whose city limit McLoughlin Point is located — which refused in April to rezone land for the $788 million ($725 million U.S.) project.

By throwing sewage treatment off schedule for a planned 2018 completion, it means that two outfalls pushing raw effluent from the 300,000-population Victoria region into the Strait of Juan de Fuca — directly across from the North Olympic Peninsula — will continue for most of this decade.

“We will get sewage treatment, that much is clear,” said Victoria City Councilman Geoff Young, who chairs the regional sewage treatment committee.

“It's going to be delayed, but we're going to have to have it.”

The regional agency in charge of the federally required sewage treatment project, Capital Regional District, failed to resolve a zoning denial by Esquimalt, and Polak said the province will not meddle in local political affairs.

“How locally elected municipal officials in this region achieve consensus on sewage treatment logistics is not something for the provincial government to dictate,” Polak said.

“The Capital Regional District is now unable to implement the provincially approved Core Area Liquid Waste Management Plan, and our funding agreements with the federal and provincial governments are contingent on the implementation of this plan,” said district board chair Alastair Bryson in a statement following Polak's announcement.

Work on the so-called ­Seatierra treatment plant at McLoughlin Point was to begin in July to ensure that sewage treatment would begin in 2018, ahead of the Canadian federal government's deadline of 2020.

Requests for proposal to build the facility have already been accepted by the Capital Regional District and the ­Seaterra program, though a final proponent hasn't been made public.

The Esquimalt Township Council, in rejecting the zoning for the sewer plant, cited overwhelming public opposition to the regional sewage project and a lack of proper setbacks and tsunami protection for the waterfront property.

The province has committed $248 million ($228.2 million U.S.), while Ottawa will provide $253.4 million ($233.2 million U.S.) toward the final project cost. Any cost overruns fall on the Capital Regional District.

The district has estimated that each month of delay adds approximately $1 million ($920,000 U.S.) to the project.

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Reporter Daniel Palmer of the Victoria News, a sister newspaper of the Peninsula Daily News, contributed to this report.

Last modified: May 29. 2014 8:32AM
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