Please mark your calendars for this important Public Meeting on Regional Sewage Treatment
On June 24, 2015, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., the Capital Regional District (CRD), through the Westside Solutions group and the Eastside Select Committee, will host a public meeting on regional sewage treatment and recovery, including further updates on site selection. I believe that this meeting is one of the most important public meetings on this topic to occur since the last municipal election in November 2014.
As you may know, since the collapse of the McLoughlin Point proposal last year and a municipal election last fall, leadership at the Capital Regional District Board has changed. With new Mayors and Councillors at the table, looking at the world with one eye closed is no longer possible. Westside Solutions and the Eastside Select Committee have been working hard since the beginning of the year to take a new, more transparent approach to finding solutions. Dialogue is more open and innovative, includes waste water and resource recovery and provides new opportunities for public engagement, before final decisions are made. Seeing ahead to future possibilities, rather than looking in the rear view mirror, has helped to expand deliberation on this challenging issue.
On selecting systems, the public has identified some major themes for consideration, such as:
- Protecting the environment
- Cost effectiveness
- Resource recovery
- Livability (noise, smell and impacts on neighbourhoods)
- Water recovery and reclamation
On selecting sites, the following issues are some of the topics raised during public consultation:
- Preservation of natural areas (urban forests, rural landscapes)
- Preference for industrial sites over parks
- Sea level and seismic considerations
- Detail costing, performance-based monitoring and evaluation
While sewage treatment and recovery are priorities for all core municipalities, Oak Bay has its own set of challenges related to environmental protection and public health, a direct result of aging infrastructure and inflow and infiltration, also known as I&I (contamination of stormwater by sewage).
For decades, Oak Bay has lived with a single pipe in the Uplands area that carries both sewage and storm water together. Many years ago, the Province mandated Oak Bay to rectify the situation by separating these flows into a twin pipe system. As you know from at least two significant rainfall events last fall, overflow caused sewage to escape with storm water, forcing the closure of Cadboro Bay.
In 2010, Oak Bay had an opportunity to act on the situation but, because of strong opposition from the Uplands, the Council at that time did not move forward with a plan to resolve this longstanding problem. Now, Oak Bay is faced with a potentially more costly fix for both Uplands and for sewage treatment generally.
It is vitally important for as many Oak Bay residents as possible to attend the June 24th public meeting. My sense is that Oak Bay residents are not fully engaged or well informed about sewage treatment or about potential tax implications for this community. Of the meetings I attended, turn-out from Oak Bay was disappointing.
It was my hope that the current Mayor and Council would take special steps to reach out to the local community and host Town Hall meetings and/or neighbourhood meetings to inform and update residents about what could be the most costly project in the municipality’s history. Certainly, the rest of the region is concerned about Oak Bay’s inflow and infiltration challenges, mentioned a number of times recently by other Capital Regional Board Directors at sewage treatment meetings.
I remain hopeful that with new leadership at the regional level, solutions to this longstanding problem of regional sewage treatment will be forthcoming. In the meantime, I encourage you to attend and participate in the upcoming June 24th public meeting open to all residents from Westside and Eastside communities. Hoping to see you there!