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Sewage-project cash likely 'within weeks'

Jul 05 2012

The Capital Regional District is expecting the federal and provincial governments to announce their shares of sewage treatment funding "within weeks," CRD chairman Geoff Young said Wednesday.

"I hesitate somewhat to say 'within weeks,' because I'm aware I've made forecasts before, but I continue to expect we will finalize an agreement with regard to funding this summer," Young said.

The provincial government ordered in 2006 that secondary sewage treatment be in place in the region by 2016.

But a delay in funding announcements for the provincial and federal governments' portions of the project has pushed back the completion date, said Jack Hull, the project manager.

If the funding is announced soon, construction could start in 2013, with completion in 2018, he said.

The cost of the $782million project is to be split equally between the CRD, the province and the federal government.

The CRD's treatment plan was accepted by the government in the fall of 2011, but the project has largely been in limbo since.

The approved treatment plan calls for a liquids-only treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt. There, the liquid would be extracted and the sludge left over would be piped 18 kilometres to a biosolids digestion facility at Hartland landfill in Saanich. Underground storage tanks would be built at Cadboro Bay.

Currently, sewage is sieved through a six-millimetre metal screen before it is piped about a kilometre into the ocean.

There is much debate as to whether secondary treatment is needed, with those opposed to it arguing that ocean dilution works and does not harm the environment.

Young said he and the CRD board are "very well aware" of the debate over the scientific necessity of treatment and concern about the cost. But he has received no indication from either level of government that they are having any second thoughts about the requirement.

"We have not heard there has been any changing of minds of the federal or provincial government. Sewage treatment is not something I see going away."

The cost to homeowners for sewage treatment is estimated to range from $100 to $500 a year. Each municipality would determine how it bills taxpayers.

Young said the CRD board would be "prepared to consider" improvements on where the treatment facilities are sited, particularly of the Hartland biosolids facility.

"There may be benefits to a biosolids plant located closer to the main liquid treatment plant."

Any decisions on buying land are held in camera, so Young said he couldn't comment on any land discussions. "I can say in general terms if we found a preferable site, I'm sure the board would give it every consideration."

kwestad@timescolonist.com

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