British Columbia

Victoria sewage treatment plans inching along, but mayors not in harmony

With hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funding at stake, CRD mayors must agree on a plan to treat the region's sewage. That still appears to be a long way away, and two mayors want to examine having their municipalities go it alone.

Saanich, Colwood mayors want to examine going it alone on sewage treatment

Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton (left) and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps appear together at a media event to launch public consultation on sewage treatment options for the Capital Regional District. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Victoria is inching closer to a plan to treat its sewage with a new set of options now up for public comment.

However, some mayors in the capital region still question the $1 billion price tag and whether a regional approach will work, which once again is casting doubt on the process.

Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell wants to examine a "made-in-Saanich" approach to treatment, because he says moving his city's sewage to a central location in Victoria would cost an extra $250 million.

"It'll be the largest tax hike in the history of this region," he told On The Island host Gregor Craigie.

"It'll have a cost of living increase across the region. Every haircut, every sandwich, every rent is going to go up substantially, even with the government grants that are forthcoming."

Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton also raised the issue of cost allocation and said her city is also considering going it alone.

She said that while some municipalities have close to 100 per cent of their residences on municipal sewers, Colwood only has about 25-30 per cent. She wants her city's share of the system's cost to reflect that.

"There does need to be some consideration given, and that's the conversation that we, in our municipality, are having with the CRD to ensure that we get the right numbers for the right people," she said.

Meanwhile, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps is pleading with people to ignore what she calls "distractions" and provide feedback on the latest options for sewage treatment.

"This project has come off track far too many times," she said.

Indecision could also prove expensive, as hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding are on the line if a decision is not made by the end of March.

The CRD has posted a survey online to solicit feedback from citizens on the various options.

To hear the interview with Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell, click the audio labelled: Plans to treat CRD sewage limping along, but mayors not on same page

With files from Megan Thomas