-Esquimalt residents join forces with scientific experts to educate all of Greater Victoria on Sewage Treatment
By Tim Morrison
A very important regional forum recently took place in Victoria entitled “Understanding Wastewater Management in Victoria – Do we have the RIGHT plan?” The lead organizing of the forum was done by Esquimalt community volunteer Karen James, who serves on the Esquimalt Residents Association (ERA) Board of Directors. James, along with other ERA Board members reached out to resident, community, and neighbourhood associations from all over Greater Victoria resulting in a highly successful grassroots partnership towards a better understanding of Capital Regional District sewage treatment.
Both Esquimalt Municipal Council and the Esquimalt Residents Association are opposed to the Capital Regional District’s plan to locate the region’s sewage treatment at a new $800-million facility at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt. Scientific experts, including engineers and environmentalists alike, have decried the CRD’s plan as a short-sighted boondoggle that will accomplish little while adding a lot to everyone’s property tax bills.
While Esquimalt is firmly opposed to the plan for admirable reasons (most notably for defending the wise use of taxpayer money and the best protection of our environment), Esquimalt alone cannot overcome the CRD’s mad dash to steam roll the project into a complete calamity to the detriment of all the region’s residents.
“This is an important regional issue, demanding a broad, grassroots level of engagement,” says Karen James. “It’s the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken in Victoria. It will add several hundred dollars to everyone’s tax bill for years and years. It is important to get it right! If we are to influence our municipal councils, and through them the CRD, we need to fully understand the options.”
So, Karen James did just that. She spent countless hours over the past six months networking with respected scientific experts in the fields of health, marine biology, oceanography, economics, environment, infrastructure engineering, and community planning. (The credentials of these experts can be viewed by clicking here). At the same time, James was also busy reaching out to the grassroots community leaders in neighbourhoods throughout Greater Victoria. She then realized she needed to get the experts together in the same room with the region’s residents. The result was a major success in citizen engagement and education.
“For the first time, citizens across Victoria had the opportunity to collectively explore more information about wastewater management from experts who have no commercial stake in the outcome, apart from being reliable taxpayers like the rest of us,” said James.
Through an open, interactive format, the panel of respected scientists shared their knowledge on such topics as:
– Victoria’s marine environment and the impact of our current and proposed systems
– Human health concerns with the current and proposed systems
– Resource recovery opportunities and sludge disposal concerns
– The effect of present and proposed regulations
– Economic and social impacts including independent cost-benefit analysis
– Specific recommendations regarding the best environmental bang for the buck.
Despite diverse backgrounds, the expert panel shared a common assessment that the CRD plan on sewage treatment is severely lacking in the smart use of technology and taxpayer money.
It is important to note the CRD was formally invited to participate and to explain the science behind their decision-making and the merits of their plan, but they opted not to attend. While the panel seat reserved for the CRD remained silent, their absence spoke volumes about their disrespect for taxpayers as well as the level of confidence in their plan. We are left to agree with the independent experts that the CRD plan is not the right plan.
Now, it is up to Greater Victoria residents to take that message to their municipal, provincial, and federal politicians who control the funding for the project. CRD Sewage Treatment is a high-stakes project, jointly funded by all three levels of government. Decisions need to be based on long-term smart policy, not short-term politics. Before delivering a billion dollars of our hard-earned money towards sewage treatment, our politicians at all levels need to be better informed of the science related to Greater Victoria’s current sewage treatment and the best steps forward for enhancing that system.
Start by watching this very informative video by clicking this link here: Greater Victoria Sewage Treatment Video. Then, forward this video to your friends and colleagues throughout Greater Victoria. Forward it to your elected officials including municipal councils, provincial MLAs, and federal MPs. Together, we can become smarter with our sewage treatment and with our tax dollars. It’s not too late to save our future! It’s not too late to flush the CRD Sewage Plan down the toilet.