SEWAGE IN THE CRD: ‘Preferred’ Rock Bay site now in limbo

This is the final instalment of our five-part investigative series on the issues surrounding sewage in the CRD

A CRD Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee meeting at the CRD offices hears presentations.

A CRD Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee meeting at the CRD offices hears presentations.

The options originally presented to the public showed that any solution to the Capital Region’s wastewater concerns would need to run through Rock Bay. But when the dust finally settled, Rock Bay was merely an afterthought in the region’s search for the site for a sewage treatment facility.

The seven municipalities participating in the Capital Regional District project initially identified dozens of possible sites for a plant. But all seven options identified for public consultation by consultants for the CRD’s core area liquid waste management committee included a site in Rock Bay as a critical component. How Rock Bay became featured so prominently is a mystery to many in the community and some around the board table.

“That’s a good question,” said Saanich mayor and committee vice-chair Richard Atwell. “The consultants just all of a sudden made it [Rock Bay] the choice.”

Atwell has closely followed the sewage treatment issue for more than three years, riding the prominence of heading up the RITE plan to the mayor’s office. He didn’t mince words in his opinion of Rock Bay.

“It’s a terrible site. It’s at sea level, it’s clay, it’s not a seismically stable site.”

The decision to step back from Rock Bay came as a blow to the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations, whose chiefs were visibly upset when the committee voted last month to focus on other sites.

“They want to put McLoughlin, Macaulay and Clover Point back on the table. And then they start arguing against themselves. It’s confusing,” Esquimalt Chief Andy Thomas.

Bob Mason, economic development officer with Esquimalt First Nation, said no thought has been given to alternate uses for the Rock Bay property.

The two First Nations are purchasing 1.7 hectares of the site for $2.8 million and will take ownership once remediation work is completed by current owners BC Hydro and Transport Canada.

“We’re all in on the sewage treatment plant. When it becomes evident that it’s not going to go there, then we’ll look to plan B,” Mason said.

While the sale of the land to the CRD would have injected millions into Matullia, an economic development corporation operated by Esquimalt and Songhees, money from the sale wasn’t the motivating factor for Thomas. He said they have been frustrated by the process and that local First Nations have demonstrated their commitment to protection of the environment.

“We’re in this to clean up the Salish Sea and we want to be part of the solution,” he said.

“They don’t understand our relationship to the land, the water and the resources. It’s our sacred trust.”

The main thing working in Rock Bay’s favour was that the Clover Point site was originally deemed too small for a treatment facility and McLoughlin Point was not put forward by Esquimalt council.

The 3.47-hectare site at Rock Bay is made up of two parcels. BC Hydro and Transport Canada have been working to clean up their lands since 2004 and removed more than 200,000 tonnes of contaminated soil.

The most recent estimate put the price tag for a centralized tertiary treatment plant at Rock Bay at $1.077 billion. The main factor working against the site was $248 million in conveyancing required to pump effluent to outfalls at Macaulay and Clover points, a cost not necessary in a McLoughlin-Clover Point option.

But the conveyancing was just one drawback with Rock Bay. The site would also require construction of a five-metre wall to protect from tsunamis, and Victoria council would also likely have sought millions in compensation for the loss in taxation.

Rock Bay would also exact a toll on Victoria merchants, with the laying of pipe said to cause up to a year of disruption on Cook Street from Dallas Road to Bay Street, then from Bay to Government Street.

What’s been done elsewhere in B.C.?

North Vancouver

Since opening in 1961, the Lions Gate Wastewater Treatment Plant has operated as a primary treatment facility and served about 180,000 residents in the District of West Vancouver, the City of North Vancouver and the District of North Vancouver. While its capacity has been expanded several times, the facility is one of two primary level treatment plants remaining in the region.

New regulations, however, require it to be upgraded to a secondary treatment facility. The regional government, facing similar deadlines as Greater Victoria, has until Dec. 31, 2020 to complete a new $700-million plant to be located approximately two kilometres east of the existing treatment plant.

Nanaimo

The Regional District of Nanaimo owns and operates four wastewater treatment facilities throughout the region, servicing more than 110,000 residents between Qualicum Beach and Duke Point. Two facilities provide chemically-enhanced primary treatment; the others provide secondary treatment. Wastewater from about 93,000 people in the City of Nanaimo and parts of Lantzville is treated at the Greater Nanaimo Pollution Control Centre. It was built in 1973 for just under $10 million and ended the discharge of raw sewage into the Strait of Georgia. The other treatment facilities were constructed several years later.

Share your thoughts

Get the dialogue going. Send your opinions on this series to don.descoteau@blackpress.ca or call 250-478-9552 ext 224. You can also post comments to the Facebook or Twitter pages of your Black Press community newspaper. Please include your name and a telephone number for verification.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Royal Roads University president Philip Steenkamp said they are aware of hateful graffiti spray-painted in an area of the forest surrounding the campus. The graffiti in question includes anti-Semitic content and a racial slur towards Black people. (Facebook/Royal Roads University)
Anti-Semitic, hateful graffiti spotted in forest near Royal Roads University

Royal Roads working with West Shore RCMP to remove graffiti “as soon as possible”

A cougar was spotted at Royal Roads University on Sunday, Jan. 24. The sighting was reported on the western edge of the campus. (File photo)
Cougar spotted at Royal Roads University Sunday afternoon

Animal reported on western side of campus near Colwood Fire Department

Saanich-based St. Luke’s Players community theatre company has been making the most of their opportunities to keep busy during the pandemic, including staging a Christmastime panto of Alice in Wonderland on Zoom. (Courtesy St. Luke’s Players)
Saanich’s St. Luke’s Players: Bringing the stage to the people

Community theatre company holding online auditions Jan. 23-24 for March production

Frank Bourree was awarded the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce’s first Governors’ Award of Distinction for his leadership in the business community. (Courtesy of Frank Bourree)
Frank Bourree receives award of distinction from Victoria chamber

Award recognizes positive role model in business community

The Habitat for Humanity Meaning of Home contest is open to students in Grades 5 to 6. (Screenshot/Habitat for Humanity video)
Habitat for Humanity launches national writing contest

Entries accepted from students in Grades 4 to 6 until Feb. 19

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

The sky above Mt. Benson in Nanaimo is illuminated by flares as search and rescuers help an injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Search and Rescue)
Search plane lights up Nanaimo mountain with flares during icy rope rescue

Rescuers got injured hiker down Mt. Benson to a waiting ambulance Saturday night

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

Most Read