It’s a stinky decision, according to Area B residents in and around Croteau Beach who are not happy with the regional district sewage commission for opting to build the Comox No. 2 pump station on Beech Street.
A group of residents voiced their opinions with placards at a Monday rally on Dyke Road by the Courtenay pump station.
Opponents note the selected lot is zoned for residential use, and is located outside Comox and Courtenay, from where raw sewage is pumped.
Croteau Beach residents get drinking water from shallow wells, which will be at risk of contamination and dewatering during construction and operation of the station, according to a 2015 hydrogeology study.
The regional district — which purchased the Beech Street property in 2014 — acknowledges the site selection process has been a challenge.
“A significant investment of time and resources were spent evaluating options and balancing the wastewater treatment needs of the greater Comox Valley community and the environment,” a news release states.
Sewage from Courtenay and Comox is pumped through a concrete pipeline buried along Comox Bay and Willemar Bluff to the CVRD’s treatment plant on Brent Road. A section of the pipeline poses an environmental risk because the line and its cover material are affected by wave action. Over the last decade, temporary measures — including the installation of gabion baskets — have helped protect the forcemain.
Area B resident Paul Horgen feels the best option is to redo the entire sewer system, and get all the pipes out of the estuary. If something is to be done in the interim, he notes the commission has said the top choice is to upgrade the Courtenay pump station at the former Fields sawmill site, located in an industrial area.
Project Watershed is concerned about new sewage facilities or lines along the K’omoks Estuary foreshore or across the sand flats. Its preferred route would use the same Courtenay River crossing location to the current pumping station and then an all-overland route to the treatment plant.
Mary Lang, who lives on Docliddle Road near the proposed location, says engineering studies have determined that two routing options through the estuary are a no-go, which begs the question: Why is the CVRD continuing to forward a plan that’s predicated on being able to replace the forcemains through the intertidal zone to lead it over to the Croteau neighbourhood?
Not so, says general manager of engineering services Marc Rutten, who says there are several inland routes that could also discharge into the No. 2 station in the future.
Lang also notes that once the pump station is in place, the Willemar Bluff section of the forcemain will remain open.
“It’s going to be used as back flow in the event of an emergency,” Lang said. “So my question is: Will they not need to continue remediation efforts in perpetuity because that’s going to be an emergency outflow? If that’s the case, what’s the point of putting in a pump station if you’re going to have to continue the remediation anyways?”
“The CVRD has not said it will continue to use the Willemar Bluff section as a backup,” Rutten said. “This may be possible; however, it has not been investigated.”
Area B director Rod Nichol — who is not part of the sewage commission — has suggested that directors are “going to have a fight like you’ve never had before” if they don’t take their eyes off the Croteau/Beech area. But Lang would prefer to see a creative process where people think outside of the box. She says a Valley-wide sewage system would open the door to federal infrastructure grants.
The CVRD says it “will work closely with the Croteau Beach community” to address concerns and misconceptions during the planning and design process.
The district will host an open house, which will show renderings of the new station. Details have yet to be confirmed.
For more information, visit www.comoxvalleyrd.ca/comox2pumpstation.