Residents fighting marine outfall option for Bowser sewage

Legion members vote unanimously in favour of the $10.7 million project

A concerned resident Thomas Gates plans to put a poster at the Noonday Road/Gladys Road beach access calling for Bowser property owners to oppose the RDN’s plan to discharge sewage in this beach area for its Proposed Bowser Sewage Project. — Michael Briones photo

Residents in the community outside the Bowser Village Centre are asking property owners not to endorse the regional district’s wastewater project for the Lighthouse Country.

They made it clear they’re not opposing the $10.7 million project and that they are in favour of sustainable development. What they’re strongly protesting is the Regional District of Nanaimo’s decision to opt for marine disposal that would see sewage dumped into the ocean.

Concerned citizens Thomas Gates and Laurie Basok, who are members of the group rallying the community to oppose the project, called the decision not “very smart.”

Gates, who is a biologist, indicated that there is now advanced technology for cleaner and greener land disposal systems that the RDN could easily explore.

“Why put sewage out there when we don’t need to,” Gates asked. “We have green technology that can be done for not a lot more money.”

The RDN currently has a petition to establish a sewer service in part of Electoral Area H. However, about 100 property owners within the proposed service area will get to vote on this project and will have until Aug. 11 to do so.

Property owners outside the village centre are upset that they were not included in the consultation process. The residents are calling this “undemocratic.”

“There’s no consultation with us,” said Basok, who added they wouldn’t have known about the project had it not been for . a private citizen’s notice that was posted at beach accesses and mailbox locations outside the village a few days before the RDN’s final July 19 meeting. “Only 100 property owners just 2.5 kilometres up the road. They promised to consult all of us but that did not happen.”

Gates added, “If you think of 99 people voting for a sewage system that dumps sewage out here along our recreational beaches and our properties versus the whole of Area H, it’s not democratic whatsoever.”

The Bowser Beach Community Group don’t want the beaches to be contaminated by the effluent from the wastewater. They fear it will negatively impact the salmon, the recreational beaches and also the world class shellfish industry from Bowser to Comox.

“This is a case of not in my backyard but we will put our contaminants in your backyard,” said Gates, who added they are the impacted community not the Bowser Village Centre. “We’re saying not in our backyard. Keep it in your backyard. And put it to land disposal. We have the technology.”

The RDN, based on the recommendation by consultants Urban Systems, has chosen marine disposal over land disposal due to unsuitable ground and soil conditions and the threat to the area’s groundwater.

The plan is to discharge wastewater into the Strait of Georgia basin through a pipeline via the Noonday Road/Gladys Road beach access, approximately 2.3 kilometres offshore and in a depth of approximately 55 metres. It will be located close to a shellfish tenure but Urban Systems indicated the outfall will be outside the 400 metre offset from any aquaculture leases.

RDN chair and Area H director Bill Veenhof said before the wastewater is discharged they will have secondary treatment that will ensure federal and provincial regulations are met or exceeded.

“Secondary wastewater treatment removes most of the TSS [fine particles] and BOD [biological oxygen demand; the amount of oxygen consumed by microorganisms],” Veenhof told The NEWS. “In addition, ultraviolet disinfection will provide another level of protection for human health and the environment. Currently, the outfall is planned to be in deep water, 2.3km offshore. The approval of the outfall location will be subject to Ministry of Environment review and permits.”

Last week, the Bowser Legion Branch 211 called a special meeting and assembled all their members to discuss how they should vote in the RDN petition.

The legion is entitled to two votes because it owns two properties.

President Mary Reynolds indicated they discussed whether it would be advisable for the legion to hook up to the proposed sewage service. They went over the proposal as was set up by the RDN.

“The discussion was very amicable by all the members and the vote in the end was outstanding in favour of it,” said Reynolds. “The decision was also influenced by our own position with an aging septic system and how much it would cost to replace that. It would probably cost us up to $50,000.”

The sewer project would cost $10.7 million. It was awarded a Clean Water and Wastewater Fund of $7.6 million leaving a balance of $3.6 million that landowners will have to pay as their share of the cost of the project. It would have meant a one-time fee of $38,000 for a one acre parcel or less but that amount has been significantly reduced to just a flat fee of $2,900 when developers committed to cover $2.6 million to the RDN through Development Cost Charges.

Gates questioned how the project was awarded the funds as he felt it had failed to meet the majority of eligibility requirements. He has sent letters to federal and provincial ministries involved in the CWWF as well as to Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns seeking answers.

“So far we have had no response,” said Gates. “We have consulted a lawyer and may have to opt for a legal solution. We don’t want a marine outfall.”

Gates pointed out that the initial system will have one treatment tank but it is also designed to expand which could lead to more properties hooking up to it.

“We don’t want another Victoria situation with a huge pipe going out here that we can connect to thousands of homes to in the surrounding areas that are developing or have proposed new developments that include Deep Bay, Jamieson Road, Horne Lake that would need to be tied into a sewage system.”

There is a counter petition being circulated in Area H asking residents to oppose the effluent going into the ocean. So far over a hundred people have signed it.

Gates said they will be appearing before the RDN board on Aug. 22 to ask serious questions and to try to put a stop to the marine outfall option.