Is that light at the end of the tunnel?


Ever the optimist I see a glimmer of light at the end of the sewage disposal debate tunnel. True it’s only faint, but as the Regional District’s grand plan to solve wastewater and sewage disposal problems collapses like an embarrassing Keystone Cop’s comedy, even the faintest hope is welcome.

The first flicker came after Esquimalt’s Mayor Barbara Desjardins exercised considerable political courage by refusing to endorse a plan which its municipal council felt imposed unfair and unwanted conditions on its citizens. The CRD balloon, inflated on traditional disposal methods and flying too long with costs seemingly unrestrained, burst.

Plaintively, Victoria’s Mayor Dean Fortin, murmured his city might have “to go it alone.” Even as it showed a new willingness to belatedly consider other options, his promise sent a shudder through Victoria’s taxpayers. Every time they look across the Inner Harbour at the skeleton of the once loved Blue Bridge they are reminded the current team at city hall, with Mayor Fortin at the helm, does not have an enviable mega-project record.

But with Coun. Marianne Alto already on side and joined this week by Coun. Lisa Helps, it can be hoped the ladies can persuade a majority of council to, as Coun.Helps wrote in an op-ed article on June 4 in the Times-Colonist, “start with a fresh set of eyes…to seek outside advice from people who have not been involved with the CRD’s project from its inception….”

That’s a powerful message if you read it carefully. Coun. Helps wants new ideas on the table and wants them discussed without the bias of politicians and engineers who have plotted the dismal course to date.

On the TC editorial page opposite Coun. Helps’s piece the lead editorial warned that if individual municipalities go it alone: “Nothing would be gained, and much would be lost….” The comment would indicate the editorial writer is not too up to date on sewage disposal systems which separate water from solids then convert the solids to energy for profit.

What Coun. Helps is looking for is “modern technologies that allow for plants with a smaller footprint, maximize heat, energy and water recovery…(to) change the story from large-scale sewage treatment plants to human-scale integrated-resource-management projects.” They do exist.

There was a time when Victoria, Oak Bay, Saanich would lead the way with well managed new ideas implemented with sound commonsense. In recent years Langford, with Mayor Stewart Young in charge, has placed itself as a leader in municipal “enterprise”. Maybe he can now lead the older, and somewhat tired municipal leaders into the sunlight of modern technology.

He could start by joining with Esquimalt and Colwood to combine with Langford to build a disposal plant which could eventually supply all three with electricity generated in the process. With a well plotted course of action Victoria council might follow.

It would not be a first such plant in the world.



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