Posted by: Editor | June 24, 2010

CRD Decision-Making: A Child Running with Scissors

CRD Decision-Making: A Child Running with Scissors

– CRD Sewage Plan Alarms Esquimalt

Well, it’s official. Esquimalt is now in the process of being screwed by the Capital Regional District. Read the details by clicking here. The CRD Directors are pushing through with a very short-sighted sewage plan that can best be described as children running around the house with scissors in their hands. It is irresponsible, silly, and downright stupid. Somebody will get hurt. First, it will be Esquimalt that will have to suffer the loss of a big chunk of its industrialized tax base at McLoughlin Point to be handed over for the sewage treatment site, then see its streets torn up for the construction of required piping, and later have to tolerate an eternity of truck traffic hauling in and out of the site.  Eventually, however, all CRD taxpayers will suffer immensely when they see their property taxes increased by hundreds of dollars per year to finance an inept project that does very little to solve our sewage problems.

A grassroots community group, the Sewage Treatment Action Group (STAG), takes the Ministry of Environment’s directive to clean up CRD sewage very seriously and has attempted to work with the CRD to create a sensible plan to achieve that goal. But, from behind closed doors, the CRD has disregarded or, even worse, avoided all public input by proceeding with a plan that nobody was informed of until this past week…the same week that the plan has been adopted and finalized by the CRD.

STAG President Kim Bellefontaine is organizing residents in both Esquimalt and across the CRD to fight back and put pressure on CRD directors to slow down, put the scissors safely away, and play nice with some meaningful community consultation and a careful rethinking of their rather rushed plan.

Listen to STAG President Kim Bellefontaine’s CBC Radio interview by clicking here.

Every Esquimalt resident should read the following written letter from STAG President Kim Bellefontaine to the CRD that outlines the many pitfalls of the CRD Sewage Treatment Plan:

Dear Mr. Young and CRD Board Members:

On Wednesday June 23, 2010, the CRD board will be voting on the Draft Amendment No. 8 of the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Plan.  We are writing this letter to make you all aware of significant public concerns with this proposed amendment and the overall direction of sewage treatment planning   We strongly believe this is the wrong plan for the Capital Region and we ask that you not approve this amendment and seriously consider this input to find better solutions.  Our concerns are as follows:

Whole-Scale System Changes – The new configuration consists of a centralized liquid plant at McLoughlin Point with biosolids processing at Hartland Landfill.  This represents a very significant departure from the previous plan and runs completely contrary to several of the key cornerstones of the CRD’s Wastewater Management Program, namely a distributed treatment system that supports optimal resource recovery.  As well, this centralized system has not been vetted by peer experts or the public.

Process – Details on how the amended proposal meets the overall objectives for sewage planning and the provincial regulatory directives are unclear.  Equally unclear is the process for how recent decisions were made by the CALWMC/CRD since much of the information was kept in-camera without the opportunity for public knowledge and input.  This is the biggest and most expensive project the CRD has ever undertaken and due process has not been followed. 

Consultation – All of the public engagement and consultation to date has been based on a distributed sewage system.  There has been absolutely no consultation with the public on a centralized treatment system or explanation as to how this is a better solution compared to previous plans and other options brought forward by the public.  The public deserves an opportunity for meaningful engagement and to know the details of how and why such significant changes are considered supportable.  In addition there has been no meaningful consultation with Esquimalt (the host community) over the proposed use of McLoughlin Point.  The community has never been involved with the Triple Bottom Line assessment, or has had the opportunity for input into the Environmental Impact Study.  Decisions have been made without meaningful consultation.

McLoughlin Point – Centralized liquid processing is the wrong use for McLoughlin Point.  Experts have noted that the site is too small and difficult, and one Peer Review expert commented on the similarities between McLoughlin Point and the recent and colossal failure of the waste water treatment plant in Halifax, Nova Scotia, siting inflexibility and size constraints.  Esquimalt citizens strongly supported the use of McLoughlin Point for a distributed wastewater treatment plant within a resource recovery model.  The current plan is not consistent with the strong and very proactive public input around the use of McLoughlin Point. 

Hartland Landfill – Plans for biosolids processing at Hartland Landfill are only at a very conceptual level.  Engineering studies have not been conducted at Hartland or along the conveyance route that demonstrate this is a technically and economically feasible solution for biosolids management.  In fact on several occasions, CRD engineers have told the public that piping and pumping of biosolids to Hartland would be prohibitively expensive.  We believe it is not responsible to approve a treatment plan that is missing a viable site and plan for biosolids management.

Business Case – The business case for the new configuration does not include detailed costs and cost comparisons between previous options and the centralized system.  The real costs of piping and pumping of all biosolids to the Hartland Landfill for processing are likely very high, meaning the overall costs of this sytem could be significantly underestimated.  Significant opportunities to minimize costs to tax payers still exist and need to be brought to fruition.

Resource Recovery – The proposed treatment system in Amendment 8 does not support optimum resource recovery.  Resource recovery at the liquid plant is now very limited.  The CALWMC should be asked to provide details for resource recovery at the Hartland Landfill.  If a centralized approach is going to be pursued in the capital region, it would make far more sense to do this in an alternate location that supports both solid and liquid processing together to enable the best possible resource recovery with an energy centre.  This would result in significant revenues/cost savings that are far beyond those currently achieved with Amendment 8.  Locating both solid and liquid waste components at Hartland has not been considered.

GHG reduction – It appears that the proposed centralized system will not achieve significant reductions to GHG’s.  We believe that the proposed purchase of carbon credits by the CRD to achieve a negative GHG balancesheet seriously misses the intent of the directive to reduce GHG’s.

Regional Sustainability – The CRD is moving forward with development of a Regional Sustainability Strategy, yet the current sewage planning does not dovetail with these goals.  We believe that the CRD cannot achieve significant regional sustainability without the full-system integration of liquid, solid, organic waste with resource recovery and water management planning.  This appears to be a significant opportunity that is being missed.

We recognize the pressure on the CRD Board to approve this plan for the purpose of securing federal and provincial funding.  However, approving and implementing the wrong plan is simply not an acceptable option.  The lack of due process, transparency and community consultation, the problems with McLoughlin Point, the lack of a concrete site and plans for biosolids management, the absence of a convincing business case, and the inconsistency of the plan with resource recovery, GHG reduction and broader regional sustainability goals, clearly demonstrate this is the wrong plan for the Capital Region.  It is currently a system concocted out of constraints and perceived necessity and not founded in proper planning. 

We ask that the CRD Board not approve Amendment 8 for the reasons noted and that a much-improved plan be pursued, one that is supported by proper planning and an accountable public consultation process.  Considering the significant tax dollars at stake every year for every single household in the Capital Region, we believe the public deserves no less. 

Thank-you for your consideration.  We will be sharing these concerns with the BC Minister of Environment and other stakeholders in the Capital Region.


Kim Bellefontaine, Sewage Treatment Action Group (STAG)



  1. Great letter from Kim! However, keep in mind that this whole sewage project mega-scheme does NOT need to have ANY public consultation!


    Thats because it comes under BC Municipal Sewage Regulations, whose environmental impact assessment is so weak compared to a proper one done under BC Environmental Assessment Act. So, the CRD’s in-camera meetings and lack of meaningful public consultation – especially with Esquimalt residents – is quite ok by Minister Penner.

    In fact, there is NO environmentally-valid reason to go to land-based sewage treatment for the CRD’s core are. NO reason to damage Esquimalt neighbourhoods. NONE!

    For more information:

  2. Under “Resource Recovery” you arrogantly assume Hartland Landfill area is more suited than Esquimalt for your sewage sludge and stink. People living near the Hartland landfill do not want your sewage sludge. None of us are on sewage and few are on municipal water. We do not want out air and water poisoned with your waste. Keep as much of the sludge processing as possible in Esquimalt.

  3. Based on that RR section, I don’t think that Morrison is arrogantly assuming that Hartland Landfill is more suited to taking sludge, but looking at what Hartland handles now, its a reasonable assumption by somebody who isn’t aware of the scale of the increased future flow of sludge that Hartland can take it.

    For example, Hartland already takes a few thousands tonnes annually of sewage sludge coming in from several CRD sources – and that is increasing. As well, the hazardous sewage waste goes to ponds in Hartland, and when the sediment settles, liquids are piped back to Macaulay.

    The issue for the future is that the volume of sludge going to Hartland would increase ten times or more with a McLoughlin sewage plant – probably using the right of way of that hazardous waste pipe and reversing the flow.

    Councillors like Philippe Lucas have got “land application” of sludge banned by the CRD, but he was surprised to learn that the CRD only thought that land application was sludge on farmlands – not including Hartland landfill site. Lucas is pissed.

    So, our present system produces NO sewage sludge because the effluent is more than 99% water. With NO sewage sludge produced or decaying, we have NO greenhouse gases. However, with land-based sewage treatment, LOTS of sludge to spread around, LOTS of GHGs to have to pay carbon taxes on…

    For more information:

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