Good Neighbor Agreement could help resolve sewage plant problems

Good Neighbor Agreement could help resolve sewage plant problems

Photo Caption

By George Le Masurier

For the past three-and-a-half decades, residents of Curtis Road have fought with dozens of elected officials and two iterations of the regional district (before and after it was split into two jurisdictions) over noxious ordours from the nearby sewage treatment plant that they don’t use and never wanted.

For two-thirds of Curtis Road property owners, whose families have lived there since before the treatment plant was built in the mid-1980s, it’s been a long ordeal.

For all that time, they have complained, protested, made presentations to the commission that governs the plant and written letters to cabinet ministers and provincial agencies. And they once successfully sued the regional district over the loss of property values due to the odours.

Now, Curtis Road residents are taking a different, more collaborative approach that they hope can resolve the issue through a better understanding of each other’s missions. The long-term goal, they say, is to encourage voluntary actions rather than legal challenges.

The residents have proposed a Good Neighbor Agreement.

“The agreement sets out what our expectations are of our neighbours at the sewage treatment plant for basic things such as odour level, noise and light pollution,” said Jenny Steel, spokesperson for the residents association. “Our association believes that this would really help both sides and improve our relationship moving forward.”

 

What is a GNA and who uses them

Formalized Good Neighbor Agreements are a relatively new method in Canada to resolve existing disputes or to preemptively address potential areas of dispute in the future.

The City of Parksville, for example, requires cannabis retailers to sign a Good Neighbor Agreement spelling out their responsibility to the community before they will receive a business license. The City of Quesnel, along with the RCMP and Northern Health, have a GNA with Elliot Street Supportive Housing for mutual respect and conduct.

Good Neighbor Agreements exist in larger centers, too. The Vancouver Union Gospel Mission has a GNA with the Strathcona and Downtown Eastside communities. And similar agreements exist in Victoria, Calgary and Toronto.

Decafnation was not able to find any other Good Neighbor Agreements in the Comox Valley.

But that’s not surprising. No Canada-wide data is readily available, but according to a 2004 evaluation by the University of Colorado Law School, there were only 50 Good Neighbor Agreements in the entire United States at the time.

“These so-called Good Neighbor Agreements (GNAs) take a variety of forms, but typically commit the company to mitigate the offending practices in exchange for the community group’s commitment to stop legal and public relations challenges to business operations. Many community activists believe that GNAs are a promising tool for community empowerment,” the law school reported.

 

Curtis Road proposal

The proposed Curtis Road GNA with the regional district addresses a variety of issues beyond odour problems. It includes visual stigma, groundwater issues, noise, light pollution, emergency planning, communications, complaint management and access to information.

“This Good Neighbor Agreement has been created to help alleviate negative environmental and public health and nuisance impacts. It establishes a set of standards that will result in respect for the fundamental rights of host community citizens to a healthy and peaceful environment,” says the residents association proposal.

Steel presented the proposed Curtis Road GNA at last month’s Courtenay-Comox Sewage Commission meeting. Commissioners referred it to CVRD staff for review and recommendations at a later date.

It will not be on next week’s sewage commission agenda.

But Steel remains hopeful.

“We’re hoping that our suggestion for a senior level meeting to review the agreement will take place soon – but the wheels grind slowly,” Steel said.

 

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More News | sewage

Mistrust still evident between residents, sewage commission

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

“Stinking” sewage plant wafts back onto CVRD agenda

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

Major changes coming to Courtenay-Comox sewage commission

Major changes coming to Courtenay-Comox sewage commission

George Le Masurier photo

By George Le Masurier

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.”

 

 

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More News | sewage

Mistrust still evident between residents, sewage commission

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

“Stinking” sewage plant wafts back onto CVRD agenda

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

Cumberland gets $7 million infrastructure funding for wastewater treatment

Cumberland gets $7 million infrastructure funding for wastewater treatment

Cumberland lagoons will get an upgrade  /  Decafnation file photo

By George Le Masurier

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 Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program announced this week that Cumberland had been awarded $7,113,010 from the program’s environmental quality stream. That’s about 75 percent of the village’s $9.7 million plan.

Cumberland has been out of compliance with the province’s wastewater treatment standards for many years, and was recently fined $85,000 by the Ministry of the Environment. The village is appealing that fine because over the last three years it has developed a plan to return to compliance and has actively sought funding to implement it.

“The village has worked very hard to find a Made in Cumberland treatment solution that is affordable for our taxpayers, “ Mayor Leslie Baird said.

Cumberland opted out of the South Sewer Project in 2016 for financial reasons. That plan was ultimately rejected by Royston and Union Bay voters because it was too expensive.

Cumberland then proposed a traditional treatment plan, but couldn’t find funding for its $21 million price tag.

The village hired Paul Nash, of Sechelt, to help develop a lower cost alternative that would meet provincial standards.

The now-funded plan will upgrade Cumberland’s existing lagoon-based wastewater treatment system, handle large combine storm-sewer flows and provide capacity for population growth. It uses an innovative features to filter out contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals.

“The final treated water will restore the natural summer “wet” conditions to a drained wetland and facilitate habitat restoration of the area, while providing natural polishing of the water to remove organic contaminants, before distribution to the natural wetlands north of the lagoon, then continuing to the Maple Creek Watershed,” according to a village press release.

Mayor Baird told Decafnation this week that the village has filed a complaint with the BC Ombudsman Office over the out-of-compliance fines. She said one arm of the provincial government was working with the village on their plan and funding it, while another arm was threatening to fine them.

“There were two arms working in silos,” she said. “They had no idea what the other was doing.”

Baird said the appeal is important because many small communities in BC are out of compliance and the fines and the time, travel and cost to appeal them can be a “huge burden” on small towns. Cumberland hopes to set a precedent through its appeal and complaint with the Ombudsman.

With the new funds and the village’s $1.2 million in reserves for the project’s capital costs, there will be little need for additional borrowing. During last October’s municipal elections, Cumberland voters approved borrowing for the project.

That may be good news for villagers who support construction of a new fire hall.

Cumberland doesn’t have the capacity to borrow both the whole wastewater project and a roughly $4 million fire hall.

 

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More News | sewage

Mistrust still evident between residents, sewage commission

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

“Stinking” sewage plant wafts back onto CVRD agenda

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

Comox Valley sewage issue pushed,  Arnott comments called “out to lunch”

Comox Valley sewage issue pushed, Arnott comments called “out to lunch”

Comox Mayor Russ Arnott adamantly opposes Area B representation on the sewage commission  /  George Le Masurier file photo

By George Le Masurier

Comox Mayor Russ Arnott feigned little knowledge this week of how the Comox Councillors that he appointed to the Comox Valley Regional District Board are voting, and why.

The only item on the Courtenay-Comox Sewage Commission Tuesday, Aug. 13, was a reconsideration of its “no decision” last month, a tie vote that technically defeated a motion to allow Area B representation on the commission.

This week, the commission, with CFB representative Major Guerard in attendance, delayed taking any action on the matter until after CVRD staff present their recommendations from a year-old study on how best to restructure the regional district’s water and sewer commissions.

But the issue launched Arnott off on an opening diatribe about why the board had sent the issue back to the commission.

“Why did they send it back?” Arnott asked. “We made a decision. What’s to say whatever decision we make today won’t come back. When does this end?

“I find it disrespectful, and it leads me to wonder where the integrity of the Town of Comox votes lay when we’re a paying member and (deference is shown) to a special interest group,” he said, referring to the Curtis Road Residents Association.

That caused Courtenay Director Wendy Morin to ask for a voting record of the CVRD Committee of the Whole, which comprises the full board.

“If I recall Comox directors voted to send it back,” she said.

Comox Director Ken Grant jumped in to say he could settle the question.

“Yes, Comox did vote to send it back. It was clear we (Comox directors) were going to lose the vote, so we voted in favour to deal with it here (at the sewage commission),” he said. “We were outmuscled.”

FURTHER READING:  Our archive of stories about the sewage commission

Comox is the outlier on this issue. There is support for Area B representation on the sewage commission from Courtenay and some of the electoral areas.

Comox has two directors on the CVRD board, while Courtenay has four and Cumberland and the three electoral areas each have 1. Weighting the votes based on population gives Courtenay 18 votes to 10 for Comox.

Pushing a decision on the issue didn’t sit well with the Curtis Road Residents Association, who have been battling with the regional district over noxious odours emanating from the Brent Road wastewater treatment plant since 1985.

Jenny Steel, the spokesperson for the residents, said the CVRD Board had ordered the commission to further consider the appointment of the Area B director as a non-voting member for a temporary period of time.

“The Commission today failed to follow that direction, there was no substantive discussion at all,” she told Decafnation. “ Instead, they decided to wait for Comox and Courtenay bureaucrats to come up with their “governance study” recommendations — without any input at all from Area B.”

Steel said “the writing is on the wall … Comox councillors will continue their vendetta against any voice for Area B at the table.”

The Curtis Road residents had requested that the Area B director be permitted to participate in the discussion at the Aug. 13 commission meeting, but Steel says the CVRD did not even acknowledge that request.

Steel said the CRRA would now seek out other avenues within the government to resolve their concerns.

“We will formally lodge complaints with the provincial Ombudsperson and the Inspector of Municipalities, as well as expand our outreach to the public and press,” she said. “We do not believe Comox commissioners have acted responsibly on this issue.”

Steel went on to say that Comox Mayor Arnott’s statement that there’s a good relationship with the Curtis Road Residents was “completely out to lunch.”

Area B Director Arzeena Hamir / file photo

“Since our first delegation in April there has been no commitment whatsoever to fix the odour problems or to improve governance moving forward,” she said. “In an earlier meeting, Comox reps had proposed that one of the existing commissioners be our voice at the table – clearly an admission that Area B does need a voice.

“However, they are dead set against that voice being Director Arzeena Hamir, our democratically elected representative. Go figure.”

Hamir told Decafnation that she’s extremely frustrated by the situation and that she feels for the Curtis Road residents.

“They have put so much time and energy into resolving their problem. They read the reports more intensely than some of the elected directors,” she said. “To have the issue punted back and forth (between the CVRD board and the sewage commission) is frustrating.”

Steel echoed that comment.

“It is indeed frustrating to go round in circles on what would seem such a straight-forward and reasonable request,” she said. “Until we get this resolved we have no choice but to continue with our delegations.”

They have several outstanding issues, including the location of a new holding pond, agreement on an odour standard and covering the bio-reactors, which cause most of the odour issues.

“A Good Neighbour Agreement between Area B and Comox/Courtenay is something we’ve been working on and will bring forward to the Commission soon for consideration,” she said.

 

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More sewage

Mistrust still evident between residents, sewage commission

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

“Stinking” sewage plant wafts back onto CVRD agenda

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

Comox manipulates sewage commission vote, residents cry foul on ‘repugnant’ tactic

Comox manipulates sewage commission vote, residents cry foul on ‘repugnant’ tactic

Sewage treatment plant seen from Curtis Road  /  George Le Masurier photo

By George Le Masurier

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.

It was a deliberate attempt to defeat a proposal to allow non-voting representation for Area B on the Courtenay-Comox Sewage Commission, and was made possible because CFB representative Major Delta Guerard did not show up to cast a deciding seventh vote.

It is not known which way Major Guerard would have voted, or why she didn’t attend the meeting.

Courtenay directors had declined to make the motion, saying they preferred to wait for a future meeting when the full commission was present.

The vote ended in a 3-3 tie, with Courtenay directors voting in favor and the three Comox directors voting against the motion they manipulated to the board table. A tie vote constitutes a defeated motion, and the issue cannot be reconsidered at future meetings.

An unidentified audience member called the Comox directors’ tactic “repugnant” as she was leaving the boardroom.

The controversial sequence of events arose because Electoral Area B Director Arzeena Hamir had requested a voting position on the sewage commission.

In a March 15 letter to the commission, Hamir argued that the treatment plant for Courtenay and Comox sewage resides in Area B and offers no benefit to Area B residents. In fact, she wrote, the plant presents ongoing negative environmental, social and economic impacts for Curtis Road residents that live just down wind from the plant.

They have been locked in a 35-year struggle with the Courtenay-Comox Sewage Commission to eliminate noxious odours that lowered the value of their homes and at certain times of the year made them uninhabitable.

Curtis Road Residents Association spokesperson Jenny Steel told Decafnation after the meeting that her group would now take their request for Area B representation to the full Comox Valley Regional District board, and to individual municipal councils.

After the meeting, Hamir told Decafnation that she was disappointed with the results of the vote.

“The residents of Area B have had to make huge sacrifices for the benefit of the region and deserve a voice at the table,” she said. “And while residents of Area B are able to delegate to the Sewage Commission, there is never an opportunity for them to rebut incorrect statements the way a director at the table would have. Again, super disappointed.”

Steel said it was “undemocratic and irresponsible” for Grant and Arnott to move a motion they planned to vote against.

“Comox commissioners knew that the vote was tied and should have waited until all commissioners were at the table,” she told Decafnation. “Staff and Courtenay commissioners seem genuinely to want to build a good neighbour relationship – it’s frustrating that Comox don’t seem to want to come on board.”

 

Arnott: giving politicians a bad name

During the course of debate on the issue, Comox Mayor Arnott took a swipe at himself and his colleagues.

“Maybe we need less (sic) politicians and more professionals on the commission,” he said. “When you add more politicians to anything, it’s not a good idea.”

That got laughs from Grant and Comox Director Maureen Swift, but the Courtenay directors didn’t appear to find it amusing.

Courtenay Director Will Cole-Hamilton responded succinctly.

“If we follow the logic that all politicians are bad, we should all just go home,” he said.

Arnott also tried to argue that Area B representation was not a valid idea.

“This is an emotional issue we’re dealing with,” he said.

Courtenay Director Doug Hillian contested that statement.

“If these are valid concerns (noxious odours, etc.) raised by residents and we direct staff to expend time and energy to address them, then these two positions don’t jibe,” he said.

Cole-Hamilton added that the commission was responding “to a real thing. This is not emotional.”

Hillian said giving the Area B director a seat at the commission table, but without voting power, was actually an enhancement of the democratic process.

“They’re asking for some type of formal voice, to take part in the back and forth among directors, and it doesn’t cost us anything,” he said. “This is an opportunity for trust to be rebuilt.”

Curtis Road residents have continually complained about often unbearable odours since the plant opened in 1985, and have successfully sued the regional district for its inaction once before.

Cole-Hamilton said giving Area B a voice without a vote was a reasonable compromise until the staff makes recommendations this fall on last year’s broader governance review.

Arnott may have been referring to his own emotional involvement in this issue.

The Comox Town Council has been at odds with other Area B neighborhoods for years, such as the Croteau Beach area over a pump station — now deemed unnecessary — preservation of McDonald Woods and over attempts at annexation of the area into municipal boundaries.

Mary Lang, a Croteau Beach resident and Area B representative on the CVRD’s Liquid Waste Management Plan Public Advisory Committee, told Decafnation after the meeting that it’s inevitable some residents get emotional over issues.

“When citizens are disenfranchised from decisions that have the potential to impact their homes, and are solely relegated to 10-minute presentations that they are supposed to feel honoured to have been granted…they might come across as emotional,” she said.

 

Rural residents react

Jenny Steel told Decafnation last night that Curtis Road residents will continue pressing for representation on the commission.

“We’ll be asking for a permanent seat on the sewage commission with voting rights for any decisions impacting odour, visual and noise stigma in Electoral Area B – we think that’s fair,” she said. “We’ve already emailed in requests for delegations to the CVRD board on June 25th and with Comox Council on the 19th.

“We feel it’s important to explain to Comox Council why a seat on the commission is a democratic and practical solution to this 35-year old problem.”

Steel said if Comox commissioners want to communicate through delegations, “then that’s what we’ll do.”

“It’s obvious that they don’t understand the effort required and frustration involved in bringing our issues to their attention. Nor do they understand the abysmal failures of the status quo,” she said.

Within the last year, other Area B residents have asked for representation on the sewage commission due to concerns about a new sewage pump station to serve Courtenay and Comox but located in the Croteau Beach neighborhood.

Comox Valley Regional District engineers, who manage the system for Courtenay and Comox, eventually backed off that plan — which had been strongly supported by Comox directors — because it proved too costly and risky for Croteau Beach drinking water wells and for other technical reasons.

Lorraine Aitken, a Croteau Beach resident and an alternate Area B representative on the CVRD’s Liquid Waste Management Plan public committee, said another Arnott comment — suggesting that Courtenay and Comox take back the management of the sewage function from the CVRD — is a perfect example of emotion over reason.

“Has it occurred to him that the treatment plant is in Area B? The pipes to the plant are in Area B?” she said. “Perhaps he has plans to move the whole operation to the Comox Golf course or the Filberg Lodge, where emotions would never be an issue.”

Aitken also took exception to Arnott’s comment that during his brief six months at the table he has seen numerous delegations and feels that citizens are being well represented.

“If the sewage commission had been doing their jobs properly for the past 35 years, citizens wouldn’t have to keep coming back over and over again,” she said. “If Maureen Swift and Ken Grant (who have been paid to sit at the commission table for many years) had done their jobs properly — read reports, master plans, asked questions, consulted with the public in good faith — they would have solved the problems that bring the residents of Area B back to the commission to point out what the commissioners missed, what they misunderstood, how they screwed up again because they didn’t listen to the residents of Area B in the first place.”

 

What’s next

CVRD staff are reviewing an outside consultant’s review of governance issues, particularly as they relate to the region’s water and sewer commissions. They plan to present a report of their review and recommendations in the fall.

Meanwhile, construction of a new equalization basin at the treatment plant will move ahead this summer, along with an odour level study, an analysis of odour standards across Canada and preparation of cost estimates to cover the plant’s bioreactors to further reduce noxious odours.

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More sewage

Mistrust still evident between residents, sewage commission

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

“Stinking” sewage plant wafts back onto CVRD agenda

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

Good Neighbor Agreement could help resolve sewage plant problems

CVRD assures Curtis Road residents, who seek BC intervention

File photo of lower Curtis Road

By George Le Masurier

Letters are flying between “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.

The regional district’s Senior Manager of Water/Wastewater Services Kris LaRose has assured Curtis Road residents that construction of an equalization basin to prevent potential winter overflows from the wastewater treatment facility will not affect their shallow wells or local groundwater.

In a letter to the residents association, LaRose also said the equalization Basin (EQ) will be built into the ground, not above it, for seismic safety. And, because he only expects effluent in the EQ basin during the stormiest and wettest days of winter, LaRose added that covering the basin to eliminate odours was not financially warranted.

The Curtis Road Residents Association plans to meet later this week to review and possibly respond to LaRose’s reassuring letter. In the meantime, they have written letters of their own seeking provincial intervention.

Jenny Steel, spokesperson for the residents, said she is waiting to hear back from requests her group has made to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. They are seeking higher-level assurances that the EQ basin’s location will not affect their well water quality and quantity.

Meanwhile, Courtenay-Comox Sewage Commission Chair David Frisch and CVRD staff will meet with the residents, and their Area B representative, Arzeena Hamir, next week for a less formal conversation about the issues.

The sewage commission sets policy for a sewerage system that serves residents of Courtenay and Comox, members of the K’omoks First Nation and CFB Comox. But its treatment plant is located in Area B. Neither the Area B representative or K’omoks First Nations have a voting seat on the commission.

 

What is an EQ basin and why it’s necessary

During heavy rainfalls in the late fall and winter, stormwater seeps into the sewerage system and increases the volume of wastewater entering the plant by more than three times the average summer flow.

With population growth and increasingly extreme winter weather brought about from climate change, those winter flows threaten to overflow the plant’s current holding capacity. That could mean raw or nearly-raw sewage spilling into the Strait of Georgia, which would violate standards and regulations.

The EQ basin was originally planned for another site on the treatment plant property, further from Curtis Road, but engineers discovered conflicts with existing infrastructure and future expansion plans. LaRose says moving the location now would add “several million dollars” to the cost and delay the project for a year.

“Delay of the project to 2020 would result in another winter of increased potential of plant overflow …” LaRose wrote in his letter.

 

Why the residents are concerned

Curtis Road residents — about 80 people belong to the neighborhood association — have several concerns about the EQ basin and its location 70 meters from homeowners’ property lines.

The main concern is that any compromise of the basin’s membrane will result in a leak of raw sewage into local groundwater and residents’ drinking water wells.

In his letter, LaRose said there will be more than three meters between the bottom of the basin, including its under-drain and leak detection system, and the top level of groundwater. And he said the CVRD would take additional measures to mitigate potential leaks.

The regional district will engage an arborist to assess trees annually prior to the storm season and remove any trees that have a probability of falling on the basin and tearing the underlying membrane.

The district will also drill a groundwater monitoring well below the basin’s location on the Curtis Road side to test water quality and detect leaks. An under-drain system will be installed with sensors to collect any leakage, which will trigger an auto response to drain the basin if a leak is detected.

Residents have complained about noxious odours from the plant since it opened in the mid-1980s that are at times overwhelming. The new EQ basin will have an open surface area equal to the plant’s existing primary tanks, which were covered in a past attempt to reduce odours.

But LaRose said that due to the limited amount of time the basin will contain untreated sewage — he estimated fewer than 50 hours per year — that no cover for the basin is planned.

“The very significant expense of covering the EQ basin is not seen as warranted,” he said.

 

What residents are doing

The resident have written to the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Health. They want provincial intervention in the sewage commission’s plan to build the EQ basin.

They noted that “prevailing winds and gales could easily cause tall trees (rooted in sand) to topple into the basin resulting in a compromised membrane.” And they noted the risk of an earthquake.

“The mental angst of worrying about whether our drinking water is fouled is an unreasonable interference in the use of our property,” they wrote.

The residents’ goal is to convince the sewage commission to relocate the EQ basin further away from their properties.

 

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More News | sewage

Mistrust still evident between residents, sewage commission

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

“Stinking” sewage plant wafts back onto CVRD agenda

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