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Plan approved for construction of Victoria, B.C.'s first wastewater treatment plant

The head of British Columbia's environmental agency on Wednesday approved a wastewater management strategy that calls for construction of a primary treatment facility near the city of Victoria and that will for the first time treat up to 40 billion liters of sewage a year before it is discharged into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

As much as 34 million gallons of raw sewage is discharged each day into the marine waters separating Vancouver Island and Washington state, and the lack of wastewater treatment has been a hotly-debated and thorny issue on both sides of the border, said Barry Penner, head of B.C.'s Ministry of Environment.

"I know there's been a concern in Washington state about the lack of sewage treatment in the Victoria area." Penner said. "I certainly hear about it from time to time, particularly from representative Jeff Morris, who has not been shy about letting us know that his constituents are concerned about that."

Prior to Penner's approval, the management strategy was endorsed in a 10-3 vote by Vancouver Island's Capital Regional District, which consists of representatives of 13 local governments located at the southern end of the island, including Victoria, the provincial capitol. The area is home to roughly 345,000 residents.

Approval of the wastewater strategy was hailed by state Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Anacortes.

"The B.C. government’s decision to force Victoria to move forward shows their commitment to Washington state to protect our joint waters," Morris said. "In approving Victoria’s proposed sewage treatment plan the B.C. government has moved us past decades of denial into action — cleaning up our waters by 2016."

According to Penner, the strategy incorporates resource recovery, conservation and innovation and will allow the regional district to start the implementation phase of its wastewater management strategy and to meet its commitment to provide sewage treatment by 2016. It calls for construction of a full-scale treatment facility near McLaughlin Point in Esquimalt by 2016, which is expected to cost $738 million and take 10 years to complete.

The CRD strategy also calls for incremental sewage flows to treated at a separate facility, potentially on the Westshore, after 2030. The Saanich East sewage treatment facility has been replaced with storage tanks to equalize peak storm sewage flows, and a biosolids processing facility will be constructed at the Hartland landfill.

The regional district was ordered by Penner in 2006 to develop a plan for treating its sewage following an independent report, commissioned by the area's local governments, which determined that relying on tidal currents and dilution was a poor long-term solution to waste disposal. The CRD considered 112 different sites and spent $13 million examining each as a potential location for wastewater treatment facilities, Penner said.

"I look forward to the day that sewage treatment is in full operation and we can put this issue behind us, and continue to build a strong and effective relationship between two great neighbors, Washington state and British Columbia," Penner said.

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