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Sewage treatment plan has Oak Bay facing biggest cost in region

Oct 10 2012
Secondary clarifiers at the Saanich Peninsula Sewage plant. 

Secondary clarifiers at the Saanich Peninsula Sewage plant.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam , Times Colonist

Oak Bay homeowners could be hit hardest when the bill for Greater Victoria's sewage treatment system comes due, according to the latest cost breakdown.

The average Oak Bay household could pay about $391 a year, the highest in the region, for the new sewage treatment system, which has an estimated cost of $783 million.

An average Saanich household could pay the least, at $232 a year.

The cost-sharing figures - the first since 2006 - are in a Capital Regional District report to be debated today by politicians on the sewage committee.

"It's the fairest way to go," said Denise Blackwell, chairwoman of the committee. "It's based on flows, and that's the way we've done it in the past, and based on the design capacity of the plant."

It's unclear when taxpayers would start paying the new charges. The CRD has yet to decide, though it used the year 2017 to estimate costs.

The estimates aren't final, and could change dramatically depending on whether municipalities pass on costs using property taxes or a user-pay model based on water-bill charges.

Staff in the seven municipalities sharing sewage treatment have agreed on the cost-sharing formula, the CRD report said.

If it's approved, municipalities would divvy up their share of capital costs based upon usage projected to 2030. Operating costs would be divided based on more recent flows. Municipalities that exceed projected use would face financial penalties, but also have the ability to buy unused capacity from other communities, the report said.

Plans for the treatment system include a facility at Esquimalt's McLoughlin Point and a biosolids facility at Hartland Landfill. Building contracts have yet to be awarded, but is scheduled for completion by 2018.

Under the cost-sharing formula, Oak Bay house-holds could pay more because the municipality's old leaky pipe system combines stormwater with sewage, said Blackwell.

The municipality will essentially pay to run some of its rainwater through the sewage-treatment plant.

"The place that is most unhappy is Oak Bay," Blackwell said.

Saanich has the population base to spread out costs and lower the household bill, she said.

Colwood is set to pay $310 per average household, the CRD report says. But only 14 per cent of its residents are on the sewer system.

The city must choose between passing "hefty bills" to the few residents connected to the sewage system, or charging everyone, including septic users, said Mayor Carol Hamilton.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins and Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin said Tuesday they generally support the cost-sharing formula. "User pay is a good model that's better than lumping everybody in," said Fortin.

Victoria will bill on a user-pay model. But Esquimalt will bill on everyone's property taxes, said Desjardins.

COST PROJECTIONS

How will Greater Victoria split costs for the new sewage treatment system?

Seven municipalities could divide an annual bill of $37 million, based upon current, projected and requested usage levels.

The Capital Regional District has estimated the average cost per household, based on 2017 levels.

? Victoria: $13.8 million a year; $353 per average household

? Saanich: $11.5 million; $232 per household

? Langford: $4.1 million; $332 per household

? Oak Bay: $2.5 million; $391 per household

? Esquimalt: $2.5 million; $311 per household

? Colwood: $1.4 million; $310 per household

? View Royal: $1.2 million; $240 per household

SOURCE: CAPITAL REGIONAL DISTRICT

rshaw@timescolonist.com

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