The Comox Valley Regional District’s sewage commission has approved $1 million in funding to protect Goose Spit and Baynes Sound from environmental risks created by an aging sewer pipe.
At the most recent commission meeting, members were presented with a risk analysis (to view, go to bit.ly/2eljgq8) of the large diameter sewer pipe currently installed within the beach below Willemar Bluffs (Balmoral Beach). The analysis identified serious potential risks due to beach erosion caused by exposure to wave action, and made recommendations aimed at protecting the pipe until the Comox No. 2 pump station is constructed and this section of forcemain is decommissioned.
“Given the high level of risk, it is imperative that we take immediate action to protect the environment,” said Barbara Price, chair of the sewage commission. “The long-term solution of a new pump station, that will allow us to decommission this section of pipe, is several years away. We must be proactive to protect our estuary, ocean, beaches and Baynes Sound shellfish industry. There is too much at risk to delay.”
The funds will be used to complete a highly specialized pipe condition assessment and to make immediate repairs to protective covers previously placed over the pipe. A request for proposal (RFP) will be issued and it is anticipated the contract will be awarded in January 2017 with the assessment completed by June 2017. Proponents will be asked to provide pricing for condition assessment of two sections of pipe: from the Courtenay Pump Station to Beech Road and from Beech Road to the Treatment Plant. A cost/benefit, risk analysis will be completed before finalizing the full scope of the assessment. Funding for the pipe condition assessment will be from the Comox Valley sewerage reserve fund.
Even with the protective cover repair work, the risk of a failure exists. In the event of a spill, minimizing response time will be crucial to mitigating impacts. A detailed emergency spill response plan is being developed that includes mobilization of necessary labour, equipment and materials, identification of permits or approvals that can be obtained in advance, and development of a training program for staff. This plan will be completed in fall 2016.