The Regional District of Nanaimo has chosen a location to build a wastewater treatment facility for the Bowser sewage system.
The property is located at Pitt Road, near Shaughnessy Drive in Electoral Area H. The regional district is holding a public information meeting on Wednesday, May 16, at the Lighthouse Community Hall at 6 p.m. for the purpose of rezoning the site from Residential 2 (RS2) to Public 4 (PU4) to permit a wastewater treatment facility.
Although the RDN stressed this is not a public hearing, it will accept comments and input to be compiled and presented to the Electoral Area Services Committee and Regional Board as part of the application review process.
The Bowser sewer project is now in the detailed design and permitting stage. In March last year, it was awarded a $7.6 million Clean Water and Wastewater grant. The total cost of the project is projected to be $10.7 million and the balance of the cost will be financed through advanced development cost charges collected from developers, and from existing parcel owners through taxation.
The project has been a controversial one, as the sewage system will benefit only around 100 properties in the village centre area. Residents outside the service area are upset the RDN has chosen the option to discharge treated effluent via marine outfall, with pipelines going through a community beach access.
The Stop Bowser Ocean Sewage group is fighting the marine outfall solution and is still hoping the RDN will consider ground discharge options. With the recent closures of shellfish farms in Baynes Sound due to an outbreak of norovirus and a cholera contamination of herring eggs, the group is rallying the community and writing letters to government officials to help stop the RDN’s plan.
“The clear and conscious choice by the RDN to pollute the Salish Sea near Bowser, in trade-off to maximize sewer system hookups and save a small amount of money on treatment when green alternatives and advanced treatment are now common place is wrong, and must not stand,” said Thomas Gates, the group’s campaign director.
The Electoral Area H Ratepayers and Residents Association has also asked the regional district board to reconsider its plan.
RDN chair Bill Veenhof said the detailed design of the project will be completed soon. He also explained the norovirus outbreak in the Deep Bay area was not due to wastewater coming from the land and added the proposed treatment plant for the sewage project will help prevent contamination.
Island Health’s medical officer, Paul Hasselback, informed the RDN the source of the norovirus and cholera contamination could have been from untreated sewerage from marine vessels during the herring fishery in March.
“Neither of these events would have been affected by proposed Bowser Treatment facility project which appears to be developed using accepted better treatment practices,” Hasselback wrote in his letter to the RDN. “Our offices have reviewed the technical specifications of the proposed plant and recognize the significant value of the proposed ultraviolet treatment component of the effluent such that risk for human illness from the marine effluent discharge is minimized from human disease-causing organisms such as Norovirus.”