Making tough choices to support regional needs

The Comox Valley Record has granted the CVRD space to respond to the community’s concerns regarding the Comox No. 2 pump station.

Barb Price

Guest Column

Most people don’t think about what happens when they flush their toilet. For a team at the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) however, this is a critical part of their work every day. Thinking about planning and managing sewage operations for the region is of the utmost importance. This includes making sure the system works well today, and will continue to work well decades into the future.

It is this attention that has led to some challenging decisions in the last few years, particularly regarding the Comox No. 2 Pump Station project. We understand very much that residents/homeowners in the Croteau Beach area are concerned about the proposed facility, and respect that sharing letters is a way to share perspectives and opinions. In that spirit, we would like to clarify our position on the Comox 2 Pump Station.

The sewage forcemain running at the bottom of Willemar Bluffs (Goose Spit/Balmoral Beach) is in danger because of wave erosion. Temporary fixes have extended its life, but are not a permanent solution. A new line that reroutes away from this area is critical to protect all of the Comox Valley and Baynes Sound from a serious environmental risk. This is not a case of a municipality putting infrastructure on its rural neighbours – it’s about a regional government working to make the right decisions for the region as a whole. These decisions do not come lightly though.

While we know the local neighbourhood wishes they were consulted sooner on the location, this does not mean that proper processes have not been followed by the CVRD and the sewage commission in making these challenging decisions. External experts have reviewed critical questions at each stage, like how to maximize existing infrastructure, what sites/locations are technically suitable and what the issues are that still need to be addressed. The sewage commission has discussed and debated these questions, and made decisions that are publicly reviewable and transparent. I am saddened by suggestions that the single CFB Comox representative at this table – or any of the commissioners – have acted in any other way than with full integrity after much difficult consideration. There are seven commissioners at this table and regardless of our vote, we all understand what is at stake.

Finally – the questions that remain for the community are the questions that remain for the CVRD and sewage commission as well. The Beech Street site has been selected as the preferred location, but there is still investigative work required to address outstanding questions about things like groundwater, geotechnical conditions, and the condition assessment on other infrastructure components whose estimated lifespan this project plan is based on. We are not overlooking these issues – a fulsome review is still underway, and we will report back to the public when those answers are available. It is only if we are satisfied that a pump station can be built safely, without harm to neighbours and their necessities (such as well-water access) that we would consider moving forward to construction. I welcome working with the Croteau Beach neighborhood to develop a win-win solution.

We have learned through this process that we can do better in keeping the community informed, and we have committed to doing so with regular updates. We understand there are real fears in the community and that ultimately, no one would choose a pump station for their neighbourhood. This, however, is an issue for the region as a whole, and one that – if technical investigations prove fit – can be delivered without changing the smell, feel or look of the beloved neighbourhood it is proposed for.

 

CVRD director Barbara Price is the chair of the Comox Valley Sewage Commission