Residents protesting the Regional District of Nanaimo’s marine outfall for the proposed Bowser Sewer Service greeted Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns with their posters during his bike ride into his riding last week. — Photo submitted

Bowser sewer protesters greet MP

Gord Johns hears grievance during Ride the Riding cycling tour through community

Residents opposing the marine outfall option for the proposed sewer service in the Bowser Village Centre relayed their concerns to Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns when he stopped by the community during his Ride the Riding cycling tour Tuesday, Aug. 29.

Johns was greeted by members of the Stop Bowser Ocean Sewage group, who lined the street bearing posters protesting the Regional District of Nanaimo’s plan to use the ocean to discharge treated sewage.

The group asked Johns to look at the RDN’s application to the the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund, which awarded the $10.7 million Bowser project $7.6 million in grant money.

According to Thomas Gates, a spokesperson for the group, Johns made a commitment to find out what has happened to their CWWF information request to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, submitted July 29. As a followup, the group sent Johns a copy of their request to the MoTI to explain how the Bowser sewer system project meets each of the eligibility requirements for the CWWF.

“We are concerned that the eligibility of the Regional District of Nanaimo for the CWWF Bowser Village Centre Sewerage system allocation is confused, and as such are asking again for the information and, if available, ‘oversight committee review,’” Gates wrote in his letter to the MoTI. “Should review show that redirection of funds toward on-land disposal of treated effluent would provide for a ‘naturalized’ new Bowser Village Centre sewer system, to replace existing private systems, we would request that funds be withheld until appropriate naturalized on-land disposal components are confirmed by RDN.”

At the RDN’s regular board meeting, the directors, despite the petition of 664 residents opposing the chosen marine outfall for the Bowser Village Sanitary Sewer Servicing project, unanimously approved three readings to each of the three new bylaws that gave the green light to proceed to the next phase. Those bylaws include development of a detailed design of the outfall, construction of the collection treatment, and effluent disposal systems. Only 108 parcels were allowed to vote in the RDN’s petition process to establish these bylaws, with 67 landowners in favour out of the over 3,800 population.

The marine outfall was recommended to the RDN by engineering consultant Stantec, which concluded the existing ground and soil conditions in the area are not suitable for ground disposal.

The group disagreed. Gates said the RDN did not consider the feasibility of the on-land disposal option provided by Chatwin Engineering in 2011. Despite assurances by the RDN that the proposed outfall would meet and exceed regulatory standards to protect human health and the marine environment, the Bowser group is not convinced.

“As the RDN snubbed our 664-person petition to stop ocean sewage, rammed three readings of each bylaw through in minutes, and has deferred the decision on an ocean outfall to the B.C. and Federal Government vis-a-vis the EIS process and health and environmental standards and guidelines review, it is no longer a local government matter. Accordingly, we have no confidence in local governance.”

The Stop Bowser Ocean Sewage group aims to review each step in the allocation and regulatory process to ensure compliance with rules and law, said Gates.

However, should the ocean disposal option be approved, Gates said their solicitor has suggested that a class action may ensue for injurious affection and nuisance. This would further increase the costs for this non-green option, he said.

Gates told Johns, “I believe the NDP can and must act to green Area H, with Bowser Village Centre then being a shining example of what can be accomplished if leaders such as yourself say ‘we can do it’ and allocate funds appropriately.”