Revisiting Sewage Treatment – My Take

I wanted to re-post this article from last August 2014, given that sewage will top the CRD’s agenda as a new Board will be installed on December 10th.  I believe that proactive leadership will be critical on this significant issue, making the selection of a new CRD Board Chair key to cooperation and collaboration ahead.  Let’s hope that the new Board Chair is a community leader who has demonstrated openness and the ability to bring communities together, especially for Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay.  “Old think” will not serve these important discussions well and I look forward to the selection of a Mayor who understands all sides of the issue and has a record of being consistently present at the table.

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.