It’s often said that information is power and in the case of the CRD sewage issue and the Seaterra Plan, nothing could be more true.

In my July 17, 2014 blog post about the CRD Seaterra Plan (which I understand was covered by CFAX radio and host Ian Jessop), I expressed my own concerns about the failed CRD process to secure McLoughlin Point, and subsequent CRD attempts to circumvent the results of due process (public hearings) conducted by Esquimalt Mayor and Council.

Since that post, I have spent time trying to get up to speed on the history and political processes related to other aspects of this contentious issue.  I have acquired more in depth information and it’s clear to me that on the issue of regional sewage treatment, our Oak Bay community also needs to be better informed.

For instance, my understanding is that Oak Bay was mandated by the Provincial Government some years ago to separate its sewage from its storm water and to do so by 2015.  As you may know, there is a single pipe that carries together sewage effluent and storm water, commonly referred to as I&I.  When flooding and heavy rains occur that overload the system, sewage waste gets carried to the outfall with storm water, creating an environmental risk on our waterfront.  Until we correct this issue in Oak Bay, it is questionable in my view that we should be criticizing another community on sewage mitigation and treatment.

I also learned that the CRD wanted to site a treatment plant in Haro Woods, in Saanich’s Gordon Head area.  But Saanich residents said no.

I believe that I have a responsibility to you as residents and taxpayers, to be as well informed, knowledgeable and conversant as possible about sewage treatment, and that Oak Bay needs to be actively participating with its regional partners to explore alternatives and new sewage treatment technologies.  Such working partnerships not only require well informed elected representatives but also require proactive political leadership.

To this end, during the summer, I met with representatives of the Sewage Treatment Action Group (STAG), with our local MLA Andrew Weaver, with regional colleagues from other municipalities and, yesterday, I attended as an observer, my first CRD sewage committee meeting.  This was a critical meeting as it turns out.  If you read the August 14th edition of the Times Colonist, you will now know that it was at this meeting that a flyer was rejected by a majority of sewage committee members representing seven municipalities.  The flyer was prepared by the CRD and was to be mailed directly to Esquimalt households, requesting them to re-consider their refusal to allow siting of the Sewage Treatment Plant at McLoughlin Point.

The political rhetoric to date is unfortunate and in my opinion, puts Oak Bay at a distinct disadvantage if we want to become part of a newly formed West Shore Mayors’ group that is now working together cooperatively, along with a technical committee composed of municipal staff from Victoria, Esquimalt and Saanich, to explore other regional sewage treatment options and new waste management technologies.

To this end, I encourage you to visit for a recent presentation (August 13th) by STAG to a meeting of the members of the CRD’s Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee (CALWMC).  STAG is also on Facebook and has a website under the “Rite Plan.” Please also visit the CRD website where you can access minutes, staff reports, motions and decisions related to the CALWMC.

NOTE:  In addition, the following summary has been provided to me by STAG, noting that their summarized points are supported by links to related CRD documents and staff reports.  As STAG was kind enough to provide this information to me, I want to share it with you.

Important dates and highlights:
The CRD selects Millstream Meadows over Hartland for site of Biosolids facility.  Report is not released publicly until 2013.
Provincial Minister Barry Penner orders the CRD to move to a higher level of treatment.
The CRD hires consultants to produce a plan called “The Path Forward,” that sites a secondary treatment plant at Macaulay Point requiring 5.0-6.8 ha. of land.
BC Ministry of Community Services sets new policy (“Resources from Waste – Integrated Resource Management,” or IRM), to treat waste as a resource and generate revenue and not simply discard it.  This is still current government policy.
– The CRD directs staff to take concept through technical exercise to prove concept but comes up with its own non-IRM approach via a “discussion paper.”

– Three options all dependent on a McLoughlin Plant very loosely costed at 2008 rates (Class D estimate or worse).

CRD selects “Option 1” consisting of central plant of distributed system at McLoughlin Pt. with three smaller satellite plant at Haro Wood, Westshore and “wet weather” plant at Clover Pt.–development-of-distributed-wastewater-management-strategies.pdf?sfvrsn=2
– CRD simplifies 3 1/2 plant configuration into single plant configuration at McLoughlin Pt.

– Haro plant and Clover plant folded into McLoughlin Pt. Plant and Westshore plant deferred until 2030

– Hartland designated as “placeholder” for Biosolids facility

– Minister approves plan 7 months after 2010 Olympics end which was political impetus for 2006 rush to plan in place.

– Esquimalt is consulted on plan in July AFTER CRD sends plan to Minister in June. Minister approves plan in August BEFORE final consultation report is completed in September.

– With plan in hand, CRD seeks funding
– Federal Wastewaster Systems Effluent Regulations (WWSER) come into effect requiring secondary treatment or better by Dec 31, 2020 for “high risk” communities. With only preliminary treatment in place (screening), Victoria categorized as high risk.

– Province and Feds agree in principle to fund $783m project in July.
– As condition of funding, Seaterra Commission of non-elected officials established in March to oversee project, hire project director,  A. Sweetnam.

– CRD signs contribution agreement with Province but not with the Federal government

– CRD purchases 808 and 836 Viewfield Rd. in March to relocate Biosolids facility from Hartland to Esquimalt.

– CRD purchases McLoughlin Pt in April having acquired option to buy the site much earlier.

– CRD applies for rezoning of McLoughlin Pt, offering no amenities to Esquimalt, very little mitigation and no barging of materials.  CRD wants zero meter setbacks from high water mark.

– Esquimalt passes own bylaw in July after public hearing putting stricter zoning into place but allowing a wastewater plant that meets zoning.

– CRD puts out Request for Proposals (RFP) on July 12, 2013, only 3 days before Esquimalt rules on zoning request.

– CRD asks Minister to invoke Section 37 of Environmental Management Act to overrule Esquimalt (in hindsight, this appears to have been the plan all along ignoring concerns along the way).

– Minister refused and Esquimalt and CRD encouraged to negotiate

– CRD abandons Viewfield in July after massive public protest

– CRD and Esquimalt staff negotiate agreement in December 2013 but the CRD Board rejects the proposal because it doesn’t want to pay for barging and believes amenities package is “too rich.”
– CRD comes back to Esquimalt in Feb. 2014 with revised request (variances, etc.) offering a better amenity package to Esquimalt and asking for 1 meter setbacks but not disclosing design to the Esquimalt Council or its residents.

– Esquimalt rejects application after a second public hearing on multiple accounts including that the proposed plant is still too big, is in conflict with their OCP that obligates the Township to protect its salt-water shoreline (which is nearly obliterated with the current design) and notes that provincial policy is moving to adopt a 15m setback.

– CRD appeals to Minister Mary Polak to invoke Section 37 again.  Ministers Oakes and Polak write to the CRD that “The Province” will not intervene, i.e. a Provincial Cabinet decision.

– CRD issues and RFP for Hartland without first securing McLoughlin Point or having Federal funding in place.

– CRD writes to the Province asking for “help” and Minister replies by explaining the process for amending the sewage plan in the event that CRD and Esquimalt cannot come to terms on McLoughlin Point.

– CRD Chair Alastair Bryson sits on the sewage committee for the first time and introduces the motion to offer $18.9m to Esquimalt, which is rejected by Esquimalt Council.

– Langford passes motion to reject idea of subsidizing Esquimalt.

– CRD proposes flyer to be sent to every resident of Esquimalt to let them know about the offer.