Problems at Victoria's new sewage plant mean bio-solids go to landfill

Sewage goes to landfill

Something’s not right with a major part of Victoria's new sewage treatment system.

The finished product, bio-solids, was supposed to be shipped to a cement plant in Richmond to burn as an alternative to coal. But Lafarge Canada says it hasn’t been up to snuff.

So the Capital Regional District, which guided the $775-million, five-year project to completion this year, is spreading tonnes of bio-solids at Hartland Landfill while they figure out what’s wrong at the residual treatment facility.

Neighbours of Hartland, including Butchart Gardens, are voicing concerns that burying bio-solids into the landfill with garbage poses health and environmental risks to nearby waterways.

Plans approved by the CRD board and the Environment Ministry include shipping bio-solids to Lafarge. When the cement facility is closed for maintenance, estimated at about five weeks per year, the material is to be used as “bio-cover to capture fugitive landfill gases or a biological growth medium to enhance vegetative growth over closed landfill cells.”

Neither has happened.

“Rather, all de-watered residuals and dried Class A bio-solids have been deposited as controlled waste, and mixed with daily cover (and subsequently covered in municipal solid waste), respectively,” says a report by Glen Harris, the CRD’s senior manager of environmental protection.

“If the brand new [residual treatment facility] cannot produce bio-solids to even the minimal standard, how is it safe to landfill it at Hartland and if, eventually, the product does meet Class A standards, how can we have any confidence that it is safe to spread?” says Hugh Stephens of the Mount Work Coalition, a group of citizens who formed a non-profit to protect Mount Work Regional Park, next to Hartland.

The Peninsula Bio-solids Coalition, led by Butchart Gardens CEO Dave Cowen, wants the CRD to stop dumping bio-solids at Hartland, citing risks to health, environment and economy. The group wants real-time public access to bio-solids monitoring data and for the CRD to provide an environmental impact study with monthly testing and reporting.

“As a crop-based business that heavily depends on the quality of our soil and water, our owner and board are gravely concerned about the CRD’s practice of spreading bio-solids at the head of the Tod Creek Watershed,” Cowen says in a letter to the CRD. “In the past we have worked hard with member organizations to restore the fish in Tod Creek and maintain the water quality of Saanich Inlet, and we share their environmental concerns about the spreading of bio-solids.”

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