By Victoria News and Peninsula Daily News
VICTORIA — A $775-million Greater Victoria wastewater treatment project in the works for more than a decade is less than six months from completion.
Testing has already begun on the Capital Regional District’s new wastewater treatment project, and infrastructure is on track to meet the provincial and federal deadlines to have the system operating by Dec. 31, said CRD board chair Colin Plant.
Once completed, the capital of British Columbia will begin discharging clean, treated wastewater into the same Strait of Juan de Fuca as Port Angeles, Sequim, Port Townsend and other North Olympic Peninsula locales as well as other coastal cities in Canada.
Currently, Greater Victoria’s wastewater, which includes water from washing dishes, doing laundry and flushing the toilet, is discharged through two 39-inch sewer outfall pipes into the sea a little over a half-mile from shore.
That has sparked pleas from Gov. Jay Inslee, U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and the state’s Democratic congressional delegation, including Derek Kilmer of the 6th Congressional District, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula, to British Columbia Premier Christy Clark.
The McLoughlin Point Wastewater Treatment Plant will receive tertiary treatment, one of the highest levels of contaminant-reduction processes, before it’s discharged into the ocean about 1¼ miles from shore and less than a half-mile below the surface.
Since it started, the project has gone $10 million over budget — 1.6 percent of the budgeted cost, Plant noted.
Plant said change was slow in Victoria because a belief in the power of the ocean’s currents and oxygen levels promoted the idea that the region could discharge waste without harming the environment.
“We are one of the last, if not the last, coastal communities that discharges wastewater into the ocean untreated,” Plant said. “That’s not something we are particularly proud of.
“It may have been acceptable 50 years ago … but in 2020 we are concerned with respecting and being stewards of the ocean.”
Another delay occurred in 2014 when the Esquimalt City Council refused to rezone the logical Victoria Harbour spot at an outfall under McLoughlin Point.
In 2016, the Capital Regional District (CRD) approved McLoughlin Point as the site of the new treatment plant, with a plan that included a smaller footprint and other improvements advocated by Esquimalt officials.
Fisheries, wildlife, recreation and public health will benefit, but it isn’t just what’s removed — there’s also something gained — a dark, dry granular pellet classified as the highest standard of biosolid.
For now, the CRD is smoothing out a plan to have the biosolids sent to a cement manufacturer in Vancouver, British Columbia. In the long-term, though, Plant hopes they will be put to use much closer to home.
“The moment we have finalized our deal with the cement factories … we will then turn our attention, almost immediately, to how this can benefit our region,” he said.
Victoria News is a publication of Black Press, the parent company of Sound Publishing. Sound Publishing owns the Peninsula Daily News.