George Le Masurier photo
Major changes coming to Courtenay-Comox sewage commission
This article has been updated to include comments from Jenny Steel, spokesperson for the Curtis Road Residents Association
Major changes may be coming to the Courtenay-Comox Sewage Commission after directors unanimously approved five staff recommendations on Sept. 17 emanating from a year-old report on utilities governance.
Commissioners approved development of a policy to allow the Area B director to attend meetings and engage in discussions involving infrastructure and operations located in the electoral area. It would be a non-voting position.
Area B representation has been a contentious issue for years.
Croteau Beach residents raised the issue about five years ago during proposals to construct a new sewage pump station in the neighborhood. And more recently, Curtis Road residents who are still complaining about noxious odour from the sewage treatment plant have lobbied to have an Area B representative on the commission.
Commissioners also voted to invite the K’omoks First Nation to appoint an observer to the commission, also in a non-voting capacity.
Those recommendations may add two new positions on the commission, but another recommendation will consider whether to drop the Department of National Defense representative in lieu of an agreement to provide the DND with certainty over rates and system capacity to handle CFB Comox effluent.
That recommendation concerned Courtenay Commissioner Doug Hillian who pointed out that eliminating one voting member on a commision of seven leaves an even number of commissioners. That makes tie votes more likely.
The three Courtenay commissioners and the three Comox commissioners often vote in blocks and frequently on opposite sides of an issue. By legislative rules, any motion receiving a tie vote is defeated.
James Warren, the CVRD’s general manager of corporate services, who presented the governance report summary and staff recommendations, said the potential even number of commissioners was an issue for they would have to consider.
Warren said the staff will need two months to develop policies and agreements around the recommendations.
Major Delta Guerard said consultations on the DND recommendations would have to go through her chain of command all the way to Ottawa, which might take even longer.
One of the other recommendations included a list of staff-based actions to improve communications, and the possibility of adding a new technical professional dedicated to the sewage commission. At present, one professional handles both sewerage and drinking water responsibilities.
The final recommendation approved direct staff to develop a review board policy for large-scale projects, such as the new water treatment plant, to minimize the potential for political interference.
Responding to a question about future large projects, Senior Engineer Marc Ruten said the current system is 40 years old and some parts might need replacement rather than upgrading, especially because there are new provincial requirements today.
“It was okay to put sewer pipes on the foreshore at one time, which we’re realizing now is not an option,” Ruten said. “Many of the options of the old days are not with us now.”
Most of the recommendations require development of policies, agreements or other staff actions before they will be implemented. But the approvals set that process in motion.
Jenny Steel, spokesperson for the Curtis Road Residents Association, said her group would wait to see the policy staff recommends to assess whether Area B’s request for a permanent non-voting seat on the sewage commission will be effective.
“Our elected representative was not involved in any of the discussions and the level of detail in today’s staff report was not enough for us to understand what exactly was being proposed or how it would work.” she told Decafnation. “We do find it a slap in the face and undemocratic that other small constituencies (DND and KFN) appear to be welcomed without hesitation to permanent membership on the sewage commission. Meanwhile, Comox Commissioners treat Area B, the host community for a huge part of sewer service infrastructure, as a pariah.”
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER
Curtis Road residents have tried protests and lawsuits to eliminate the problem of noxious odours from the Courtenay-Comox sewage treatment plant. Now, they’re trying a collaborative Good Neighbor Agreement
Work will begin soon on Cumberland’s new wastewater treatment system after the Village received a $7 million grant from federal and provincial governments
The Courtenay-Comox Sewage Commission declined to take another vote this week on adding Area B representation, which left Curtis Road residents and others frustrated
In a move one observer called “repugnant,” Comox Councillor Ken Grant and Comox Mayor Russ Arnott moved a motion at the regional sewer commission Tuesday that they intended to vote against
Letters are flying between the “fed up” Curtis Road residents and the Comox Valley Regional District over odour, drinking water wells and other issues emanating from the Brent Road sewage treatment plant
Plagued by the odours of sewage from Courtenay and Comox residents for 34 years, the residents of Curtis Road returned to the regional sewage commission this week hoping for resolutions to their concerns, which they say now includes a threat to their drinking water wells and a visual blight on their neighborhood
The Curtis Road Residents Association will press the Courtenay-Comox Sewage Commission again next week, this time on policy issues related to their decades-long battle to eliminate unpleasant odours from the system’s sewage treatment plant
Another group of rural Comox residents have asked for representation on the Comox Valley Sewage Commission; Ken Grant calls out former Area B director for not factual statements
Curtis Road residents have asked the Courtenay-Comox Sewer Commission to reassess its plan for future odour controls and the need for a second equalization basin. They also want Host Community Compensation
Less than a year after the Comox-Courtenay Sewer Commission abandoned its patchwork plan to prevent leakage from large pipes that run through the K’omoks estuary and along Point Holmes beaches, a new, comprehensive Liquid Waste Management Plan is emerging that considers climate change and moves the entire conveyance system onto an overland route.