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Victoria Harbour sewage treatment plant stopped in its tracks

Plans that have been in the works for over eight years to build a sewage treatment plant near Victoria, B.C. have ground to a sudden halt.


Harbour Resource Partners' design for sewage treatment plant on McLoughlin Point, Esquimalt at mouth of Victoria Harbour, Vancouver Island. The project is now on hold.
Harbour Resource Partners' design for sewage treatment plant on McLoughlin Point, Esquimalt at mouth of Victoria Harbour, Vancouver Island. The project is now on hold.

Plans that have been in the works for over eight years to build a sewage treatment plant near Victoria, B.C. have ground to a sudden halt.

The Capital Regional District (CRD) — which includes 13 municipalities in southern Vancouver Island — currently releases its wastewater into Victoria Harbour with just prescreening. The province has dictated that the region must treat the waste by 2016 and the federal government dictates that treatment be in place by 2020.

Things were going well with plans for a treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt, west of Victoria at the mouth of the harbour. The CRD created the Seaterra program to oversee the $780-million “Liquid Waste Management Program.” It had paid $4.6 million for land on McLoughlin Point to build the sewage treatment plant as part of that program.

The citizens of Esquimalt, however, were not happy. They don’t want a large sewage plant on their waterfront, which they see as a gateway to B.C. After holding public hearings and a poll, the Esquimalt council voted in April to reject the Region’s application for a zoning bylaw amendment, effectively stopping plans for any construction.

On May 28, the provincial Minister of the Environment, Mary Polak, announced she would not intervene to push the project through over the wishes of Esquimalt’s elected officials. The CRD reacted almost immediately and said they would not be proceeding with the sewage treatment plant.

In a media release, CRD Board Chair Alastair Bryson said: “It is regrettable that the province has made this decision. 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.”

Bryson continued: “The CRD believes that after extensive and exhaustive studies and analysis it developed a program that would have met the needs of the core area municipalities and residents for several decades to come at the least cost to the taxpayers, while meeting the Provincial and Federal regulations.”

Stantec had done the preparatory studies and planning for CRD, and then recently the Region had recently added advanced oxidation to the program. On May 2 CRD had announced that a consortium known as Harbour Resource Partners had been chosen over two other teams for the project. AECOM Canada, Graham Infrastructure, CEI, SENA, Gracorp and Michels Canada, were part of the consortium that submitted the successful design.

The CRD had also announced a shortlist of proponents for a residual solids treatment plant that was to be built at the Hartland landfill. The residual solids from the new treatment plant in Esquimalt were to be piped to the plant which was to convert the waste to biogas, struvite (phosphorous) and dried biosolids.

In a CBC news report on May 27, the chair of the CRD’s liquid waste management committee, Geoff Young, said the district will now have to spend millions more to develop a new plan and buy other potential sites. The CRD is meeting Wednesday, June 18 to discuss its plans going forward.

In the meantime CRD posted on its website a fly-through of Harbour Resource Partner’s design for the plant at McLoughlin Point, showing how far the design development had reached. The building is a low horizontal structure with a glass-walled front and walkway. The $179-million plant would process 124 ML/D.

The mayor and council of Esquimalt have applauded the province’s decision to back them and are “excited” about the new possibilities. Instead of a central plant, they believe there should be decentralized more more local treatment plants. Esquimalt is working with the Cascadia Green Building Council to develop a “Living Building” village that would incorporate a municipal scale tertiary sewage treatment plant with “state of the art resource recovery.”