It has been a slow, painful process, but it looks like Victoria and the surrounding Capital Regional District will eventually get what most every city in the First World takes for granted: a secondary sewage treatment facility. The scenic provincial capital has been the butt of jokes and the target of anger from environmentalists in Canada and neighbouring Washington State for piping its screened but untreated sewage a kilometre offshore into the Pacific Ocean.
The federal and provincial governments are expected to announce “within weeks” they are finally paying their share of the $782-million project, district chairman Geoff Young told Victoria’s Times Colonist. The three levels of government are to share the cost equally, but the funding announcement has been repeatedly delayed after the recession sent revenues down the drain.
The district had long argued the sewage was diluted and rendered harmless by the deep water and fast currents. The provincial government forced the issue in 2006, ordering that a secondary treatment plant be in place by 2016. But even if construction begins next year, the first treated flush isn’t likely to be celebrated until 2018.
The project remains controversial. Municipal taxpayers are expected to be hit with increases as high as $500 a year in some areas. Environmental groups argue residents have escaped a responsibility that ratepayers in other cities have shouldered for years. The region’s own studies show increasing contamination around the outflow pipes, says a statement by the Georgia Strait Alliance and the T. Buck Suzuki Foundation, two advocates for treatment. “The lack of treatment,” it says, “remains a blight on the community.”