How will the CVRD address the Comox Valley’s sewage issues?

The Comox Valley Regional District has a big decision to make regarding its sewage system in the near future.

The CVRD’s Sewage Commission voted last week to shelve a long-standing plan to build a new wastewater facility in Area B. The project will be put on hold for at least a year while the CVRD reviews other options.

The proposed No. 2 Pump Station was slated to be housed on a vacant lot on Beech Street, just outside of Comox’s municipal boundaries. Many Area B residents have criticized the location since it was first proposed in 2014.

Read More: CVRD shelves controversial sewage project

The decision to put the contentious project on hold was based on recent research by multiple consulting firms. These firms included Opus International Consultants, Pure Technologies, Northwest Hydraulic Consultants (NHC) and GW Solutions.

The companies found three issues with the proposed No. 2 Pump Station: significantly rising costs, the potential impact on the area’s groundwater, and the condition of the current sewer forcemain along the coast of the Willemar Bluffs, which the consultants determined is not as deteriorated as once thought.

But now that the No. 2 Pump Station is off the table (at least temporarily), what other options could the CVRD pursue?

The report from Northwest Hydraulic Consultants warned there is still a 50 per cent chance of the current forcemain failing at least once in the next five years, meaning a solution to the regional district’s sewage issues will have to be found soon.

Here are some possibilities:

1. High Head overland pumping facility.

In their report, one option Opus highlighted was to continue using the existing Courtenay and Jane Place pump stations, but to use stronger pumps to service Courtenay and Comox’s sanitary flows.

As mentioned at last week’s Sewage Commission meeting, the current pump stations (located along the Courtenay River estuary and near Goose Spit) are near their capacity for water flow. In 2013, AECOM reported that “both stations can meet the peak wet weather flow when operating individually, but not simultaneously due to the back pressure caused by the other pump stations.”

According to Opus, higher head pumps could push sewage over the Glacier View Hill and the Lazo Road hill, before gravity would allow it to continue flowing to the Comox Valley Water Pollution Control Centre (CVWPCC) — the Valley’s current wastewater treatment facility on Brent Road.

“This option minimizes the loss of energy resulting in breaking head at the intermediate pumping facility between the Courtenay Pump Station and the CVWPCC,” reads a portion of their report. “However, the system [does have] a number of additional technical issues.”

2. Relocating the No. 2 Pump Station somewhere else in Comox.

Another option highlighted by Opus is sticking with the idea to build a new wastewater pump station, but building it somewhere in Comox at a lower elevation than the site in Beech Street.

“The location of a new sanitary facility at the lowest elevation in Comox would alleviate the challenges of operating multiple pump stations in series without the benefit of an attenuating intermediate gravity system,” reads part of their report.

“Furthermore, this would concentrate the sanitary flows to a large facility which affords a greater selection of pumps and operating conditions to avoid the low-flow high-head problems.”

While this option would alleviate some of the issues associated with the No. 2 Pump Station project, Opus’s report acknowledged that the environmental risks would remain — a failure of the forcemain would put the whole system at risk, as there would be a singular point of failure.

3. Creating a new Valley-wide sewerage system.

The CVRD’s sewerage system currently only transmits wastewater from within the municipal boundaries of Courtenay and Comox. Other parts of the Comox Valley — such as Cumberland and the Electoral Areas — are responsible for their own wastewater management.

Courtenay councillor and director Erik Eriksson brought up an option that he has espoused for years at the Oct. 24 Sewage Commission meeting — building a regional system that services the entire Comox Valley instead of applying “patchwork solutions” one at a time.

“I’d like to ask that one of the options we look at is… a sewage treatment plant in Royston or Union Bay, which could take all of west Courtenay’s sewage,” said Eriksson during the meeting. “That takes all the pressure off the No. 1 Pump Station and it takes all the pressure off the [CVWPCC].”

But the CVRD’s senior manager of water and wastewater Kris La Rose shot down that option, saying the idea would cost upwards of $100 million to implement.

“We did assess the potential of sending west Courtenay’s wastewater south when the south sewer project was in the works,” he said. “The analysis concluded that there were significantly more capital expenditures required for a two-facility solution rather than a single-facility solution.”

The CVRD will host an open house on Nov. 9 to update the public on the region’s sewerage issues and its options moving forward. The open house will take place at the Comox Golf Course from 5–7 p.m.

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