Cumberland sour on sewer project

Village rejects current project option

Scott Stanfield

Record staff

Cumberland has yet to buy into the regional district’s proposed south sewer project because it does not support the preferred disposal location for treated effluent.

At a committee of the whole meeting last week, Village council approved Roger Kishi’s motion to reject the current project option and go back to the South Sewer Select Committee to propose amendments to the project. Kishi and Mayor Leslie Baird sit on the committee, which includes representatives from the CVRD and K’ómoks First Nation.

The preferred outfall location at Georgia Strait off Cape Lazo would yield a project cost of $57.5 million. Cumberland prefers discharging to Baynes Sound, which would cost $49.5 million.

“I think there is consensus that we need to do something,” Kishi said. “What is it that people think is affordable and they would be prepared to support? If it’s not this project but it’s another one, there’s still going to be costs.”

Under the Georgia Strait option, Cumberland’s share of the project would be about $15.5 million. Annual residential costs per unit would be about $1,530, including south sewer operating and maintenance costs of about $275. Businesses would pay more.

Kishi notes existing sewer costs will carry on.

“The numbers right now are still estimates,” he said.

Kris La Rose, CVRD manager of liquid waste planning, could not say whether or not the project will proceed without Cumberland’s participation.

“The collaborative aspect is what attracted the funding that we have already to the project, but it also makes it extremely complicated,” La Rose said. “I think that’s the biggest reason why we received the $15 million (federal funding) is because we’re collaborating on a solution that’s going to resolve problems in two jurisdictions.”

The project aims to address the impact of failing septic systems in Royston and Union Bay. Federal grants will cover $17 million of the project costs, including money from the CVRD’s annual gas tax fund allocation. Funds need to be spent by September 2018.

Cumberland does not have the financial ability to borrow the money necessary for any of the proposed treatment options on its own, says a report from Village CAO Sundance Topham.

Of note is the fact that Cumberland is out of compliance with provincial regulations regarding liquid waste treatment.

Its lagoon-based treatment system discharges treated effluent to Maple Creek, which flows into Trent River and then discharges into Baynes Sound.

“They’ve been pressured by the province for almost 16 years,” La Rose said. “None of the councillors deny that something needs to be done.

“The bottom line is that they heard strongly from their residents,” he added. “Cumberland was certainly disappointed in the outcome of our liquid waste management planning process that recommended Cape Lazo. We’re trying hard to secure other funding. One of the options we’re pursuing is through P3 Canada, a federal government organization that provides incentives to pursue public-private partnerships. And certainly trying to work with the province to get some provincial funding, which we have as of yet not received.”

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