Local Sewage Experience: Asset or Liability?


CRD Board Chair Barb Desjardins thinks that the combination of high-level expertise and local experience of the Project Board (PB) rounds out to a very strong team and is hopeful that we’ll end up with something “we can all be proud of”. What we could all be proud of is clearly described in the project vision and goals. “The PB will approach the project from the perspective that waste materials should be treated as resources…” and “…deliver a sewage treatment and resource recovery system that is innovative, achievable and optimizes benefits – economic, social and environmental (including climate change mitigation) – for the long term”.  Despite the same values being embedded in the TOR and/or charter of the two initiatives to date, McLouglin  Point and the CRD’s Technical Oversight Panel solution sets, CRD Director Derman pointed out that neither one came close to fulfilling them.

The degree to which these values and vision are realized in this third kick at the can will depend on a number of factors, not the least of which is the Project Members Role in the TOR: “During the Business Case planning process Project Board members will approach options objectively, and will consider each option on the basis of the information and analysis that is developed by the Project Director and Project Team”. As we all know, past actions and experience significantly impact our capacity for objectivity within a new context. Of the seven members, four have experience with the CRD on the sewage file. Will their “local experience” be an asset in rounding out a strong team, as suggested by Chair Desjardins? Or will it be a liability in meeting their singular role responsibility — impartially considering each option?

No Transparency

For those of the four who can provide numerous examples of how their past actions have been aligned with the values of the current project, such as innovation and maximizing environmental benefits, their experience clearly will be an asset. For those whose actions have been contrary, such as being innovation averse or tolerating minimal environmental standards, the degree to which it will be a liability will depend on the extent of their face saving or rationalization. Its impact will depend on the skill of the Chair in confronting it and whether the decision making process is majority rule.

As most of the PB’s deliberations and decision making will be in camera, taxpayers will never get to see how well the individual members fulfill their role of objectively considering the options. That they won’t be subject to public scrutiny may actually allow them to more quickly distance themselves from any of their previous actions at odds with the project’s vision, goals and values. Maybe we will end up with something “we can all be proud of”.



7 thoughts on “Local Sewage Experience: Asset or Liability?”

  1. Your comment regarding the project vision and goals is very important. These should provide the direction we want for 1) an innovative, environmentally progressive project
    2) opportunity for distributed, and climate change responsive, Integrated resource approach
    The failure of the past 2 processes came down to a political impass of the CRD CALWMC, one that we could not get past in time to do this ourselves through the IRM Task Force process. Please continue to inform the Porject Board about your concerns, and to send those with the solutions we know are out there to the Project Board.

  2. Wow, I admire your hope that the board will come up with something we can be proud of John. And also your desperate wish that they will be able to distance themselves from their previous actions.

    There is something interesting thatI have noticed: There is NOT ONE single member on that board that has any experience with designing or building sewage treatment plants. I wonder who chose the members of the board and it wills me with a ton of confidence.

  3. For the sake of the wonderful work you, Esquimalt council and Esquimalt residents did Barb, I hope that the new board with the supposed sewage experience of it’s members will NOT drive it back to McLoughlin point and 18 km poo go around line to Hartland . Brenda Eaton, Bob Lapham and Larisa Hutcheson don’t give me tons of (or any) confidence for anything new and innovative when they were pushing very hard for monolithic McLoughlin Point secondary plant in the past.

  4. “The failure of the past 2 processes came down to a political impass of the CRD CALWMC”.

    I thought that there was a rare agreement on the CALWMC committee for the 2 plants, one at Clover Point and one at MacCauley/McLoughlin point. So I don’t understand why the province stepped in and did not let that rare agreement take hold.

  5. I would question whether many residents of Greater Victoria actually care about having a sewage treatment plant that “we can all be proud of”. Having lived in several cities I can never recall my fellow citizens expressing pride about wastewater treatment facilities. It is likely that residents here have more practical concerns regarding sewage treatment: (1) That it meets regulatory requirements, (2) That it is planned and built in a time frame that lets us take advantage of senior government funding, (3) That it does not impact the host neighbourhood(s), and (4) That it is done as cheaply as possible within these constraints. If consideration of these factors leads back to a recommended single site at McLoughlin Point it is not necessarily evidence that the Project Board lacks objectivity. On the contrary it could be evidence that the project planning was well done in the first place.

    1. I could not disagree more about this last comment by Markus Kellerhals. I think it is downright ignorant, stupid and lacks any knowledge of the subject whatsoever.

      1. A trenchant criticism Tom. Care to elaborate on which part you disagree with? Perhaps you think residents don’t care about things I listed like cost, senior government funding, meeting regulations and neighbourhood impacts?

        To answer your question about why the province stepped in I would suggest the number one factor was the province sensing that the process was heading for another crash and burn and a few more years wasted. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that taking an unpopular plan (treatment at McLoughlin) and sexing it up by adding a second treatment plant located in one of Victoria’s most popular waterfront parks was not a recipe for success! It is also possible that the provincial government was concerned about the cost of the two plant solution. If it weren’t for crazy local politics there is no way a proposal for building two major sewage plants within 4 km of each other would ever have seen light of day.

        In any case I am going to give the Project Board the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are going to diligently, honestly and objectively consider the information and options they have available. I may not agree with what they come up with, but that is not prima facie evidence that they are incompetent or lack objectivity.

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