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Council opts to soldier on with secondary treatment
by Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror October 8, 2003

In a 4-3 vote Monday night Sooke council decided to proceed with secondary treatment as the preferred process for the community's proposed sewer system.

Coun. John Stephen tried to have the matter tabled until Oct. 20 so that tertiary treatment could be examined in more detail and a price quote could be obtained from a reputable company. Councillorís Tom Morino and George OBriain agreed, but Mayor Janet Evans and councillors Lorna Barry, Marcus Farmer and John Farmer all voted against it to defeat the motion.

The quartet then voted in favour of proceeding with the long discussed secondary treatment with disinfection option. This meets all of the required standards and is cheaper, Evans said. All of the council members who voted for secondary treatment were members of Sooke's first council, which initiated the project.

"We have an environmentally sound project here that is financially viable for this community," Coun. Marcus Farmer said. "We have to proceed with this project."

But Stephen feels Sooke is passing up an opportunity to produce a possible showcase initiative.

"I think what we are doing here is dragging an archaic system into our midst and living with it," Stephen said shortly after his motion to table the issue was defeated.

Stephen said he has spoken to a company about the cost of tertiary treatment and told the audience it was about the same price as the secondary option council is pursuing. This appears to contradict a Sept. 29 presentation to council by Dave Forgie, a senior environmental engineer with Associated Engineering. Forgie's report shows the basic capital cost of secondary treatment being $4.7 million. He showed four add-on "tertiary" options that would bring an additional cost of $750,000 to $2 million each to the project.

Barry and John Farmer wondered why a company with affordable tertiary treatment did not step forward before. The district went through a request for proposal process during which it selected EPCOR Water Services Inc. and proposal of secondary treatment. Barry also said she has been told by EPCOR representatives the plant can be upgraded to tertiary in the future when it is affordable to do so.

The decision on the treatment process was made following a 40-minute public question and comment session during which three of the nine speakers asked council to consider tertiary treatment. OBriain said in response to what was said during the question and comment period, council should ask staff to look to see if grants were available.

But Evans wondered where the money would come from. Sooke received an $11.6 million Canada-B.C. Infrastructure program grant for the $17.4 million project. She said both Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Keith Martin and Malahat-Juan de Fuca MLA Brian Kerr have told her the program is over-subscribed too and that the district was "damn lucky" to receive what it did. She also wondered why money would be available to move to tertiary treatment when secondary meets all of the government standards.

During the meeting's second question and comment period Glenn Dickie, who lives in the sewer project's specified area, said he appreciated Morino, OBriain an Stephen for their commitment to the community. However, Morino said he appreciated Dickie's words but emphasized he feels all members of council are trying to work together for what is best for the community.

In secondary treatment, floating and settleable solids and about 90 per cent of the oxygen-demanding substances and suspended solids are removed. Tertiary treatment, as the name implies, goes a step further and takes such elements as phosphorus and nitrogen out of the water.

Sewer vote coming. The referendum on the proposed community sewer system will be held December 13th. Only residents of and eligible property owners in the specified service area will be eligible to vote.


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