The last stages of the region’s $775-million sewage project are underway along Interurban Road.
Crews are preparing the trenches where the pipes will run sewage between Esquimalt’s McLoughlin Point to Harland Landfill.
Construction is set to be completed later this year but there’s already controversy spilling over about what that pipeline will deliver.
But a decision by the Capital Regional District (CRD) board Wednesday about what to do with biosolids caught at least one director off guard.
“My constituents are, to a person, totally upset with this decision,” Mike Hicks, director for the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area, said.
The decision involves spreading sewage biosolids on land at Hartland Landfill to fertilize trees. The directors decided to lift a ban on spreading sewage biosolids on land.
Hicks says local residents don’t want biosolids near them.
“They are very concerned that their water, or the air, or the land can be contaminated by the dried biosolids the CRD has decided to put on land cover of Hartland Landfill,” Hicks said.
Every year the landfill will get 7,000 tonnes of dried biosolids from the region’s sewage plant. Most of the biosolids are shipped to Vancouver for use as fuel in cement kilns. But for five weeks annually, those plants are closed, forcing the CRD to find ways to use the biosolids.
But CRD Board chair Colin Plant said they had no choice.
“Yeah, it certainly is a tough decision for the CRD board to make but we felt it was the right decision,” Plant said.
Plant said the province gave them a deadline and they had no time for public consultation, so they had to act.
“The board recognizes that this topic is polarizing, and there are some people who believe it is inappropriate and unsafe. However, the province has mandated that we have a beneficial use that included land application,” Plant said.
Hicks says Willis Point residents are concerned the biosolids will get into their water, air, and land. They intend to appeal to the Minister of Environment to delay the decision.
The Ministry of Environment issued a statement, listing the following points:
- The district has had more than three years to develop a biosolids management plan. The ministry looks forward to receiving and reviewing that plan, which is due at the end of April. No extensions are anticipated.
- Beneficial use is a technical term as defined by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. CCME defines the beneficial use as “application to landfills to augment the topsoil component of the closure system or mitigate fugitive methane emissions.”
- The goal of applying biosolids to landfills is to reduce GHG emissions. When you blend biosolids with soil, it augments that soil with nutrients that support microorganisms and beneficial bacteria and plant growth, which help convert methane to carbon dioxide.
- Methane is 30 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas.