A crowd of roughly 75 citizens peppered Comox Valley Regional District Senior Engineer Marc Rutten Jan. 17 with questions and angry statements at an open house about the HMCS Sewer Project.

At times the meeting threatened to spin out of control as residents shouted critical responses to Rutten’s remarks without being called on to speak.

A majority of the attendees appeared to reside in the Hawkins Road and Croteau Beach neighborhoods, where a new force main sewer pipe from the sea cadet facility on Goose Spit will wind through local roads enroute to connecting with Courtenay-Comox sewage pipes.

The route assumes the eventual construction of a new Comox #2 pump station to be built on a Beech Street lot, which is outside the Comox town boundary. If that pump station does not get built, then the Quadra pipe will have gone out of its way by a considerable distance, and at a much greater expense.

The Quadra route’s assumption of a new Comox pump station rankled many of those grilling Rutten during his presentation and follow-up question period. And that led to questions and critical statements about the Courtenay-Comox sewerage system, which is operated by the regional district.

Many residents argued that upgrading the Courtenay #1 pump station now, which has to be done in a few years anyway, would be cheaper in the long run.

“Why not take the longer view,” asked one resident.

Rutten tried to separate the two issues. He said that regardless of whether the Comox #2 pump station is built, the sewer pipe from Quadra would still need to be replaced.

Numerous residents responded by saying that was true, but the route of the pipe would be different, and it would not run through their neighborhood and close to many residents’ shallow wells.

They accused Rutten of being disingenuous and the Sewage Commission — made up of three Courtenay directors, three from Comox and a single CFB Comox representative — of bullying the neighborhood through a lack of communication and disrespect for their concerns.
The citizens also criticized Rutten for not considering other sewerage options for HMCS Quadra. Most of the year, fewer than 50 people work onsite. During peaks weeks of the summer, there can be nearly 1,000 cadets and staff, at the facility.

In response to a question about whether his engineering department considered other sewage treatment options, such as an onsite facility, Rutten said they did not.

He said there had been “no consideration of other options” than the one proposed.

The system designed by CVRD engineers will cost $1.78 million. Federal tax dollars will pay for the proposed system through the Department of National Defense budget.

But one of British Columbia’s most innovative designers of septic systems for residential and commercial properties, Jim Ripley of Turtle Tanks in Kelowna, has estimated the cost of a small bore sewer system for HMCS Quadra at around $250,000.

Ripley has not provided the CVRD with an official estimate nor did he have access to all of the HMCS Quadra data. He was roughly estimating the cost on numbers of users only at the request of Decafnation.

A small bore sewerage system would consist of a large septic tank and a small pump to move effluent through a small two-inch diameter pressure pipe into the Courtenay-Comox system. The small bore pipe could be slipped through the existing Quadra pipe, even though it is outdated for carrying wastewater directly.

Rutten called this option “not feasible,” but said he had no supporting data for his statement.

Small bore systems are used around the world, including Canada, to service entire villages. Ripley suggested a small bore system might also be applicable to connect Royston and Union Bay homeowners to the Courtenay-Comox system at a significantly lower cost.

Rutten started the meeting by explaining that HMCS Quadra sewage currently flows to the Comox Jane Place pump station via the town’s old outfall pipe. It was originally laid across Comox Bay in the mid-1960s and used to discharge the town’s sewage until the current Courtenay-Comox system became operational in 1985.

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