Victoria has received a lot of flak over the years for dumping its raw sewage into the ocean.
Meanwhile, Vancouver Island’s other favourite tourist destination has been doing the same thing with considerably less attention.
That’s about to change
The federal and provincial governments are kicking in more than $40 million to help build a wastewater treatment plant in Tofino. It is the largest infrastructure investment in Tofino’s history and will end the district’s longstanding practice of discharging untreated wastewater into Clayoquot Sound.
“I really want to mark the fact that this is a pivotal point in the many, many hours, days, months and years of planning to get to this point,” said Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne.
The new wastewater treatment and ultraviolet disinfection plant will service the District of Tofino, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, and the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Ottawa will invest $21.96 million, with the B.C. provincial government contributing $18.3M and the District of Tofino $14.96M for the estimated $55 million project.
It is expected to improve water quality in the Clayoquot Sound, protect public health and conserve the marine environment, states a press release issued by the district.
In particular, it is hoped that once the wastewater treatment plant is operating, the longstanding restrictions on shellfish harvesting near Tofino and Opistsaht will begin to ease.
Saya Masso, Land and resources director for Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations, said Tla-o-qui-aht is very happy to see the region awarded this funding.
“This project falls perfectly in line with Tla-o-qui-aht land use and marine objectives; and it has been a long standing desire to see this project implemented. This project is a critical step to achieving healthier marine areas, and enhancing the economic diversity of the region,” said Masso.
Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns said the green infrastructure investment is a major boost for the community.
“We need an unspoiled natural environment to support both traditional Indigenous practices and a healthy tourist economy which attracts thousands of visitors to our region every year. This has been accomplished with good planning, the vision of local leaders and federal and provincial governments working together. It is truly a big day for the future of Tofino and our UNESCO Biosphere Region,” said Johns.
Work is underway on a $765 million wastewater treatment project to prevent a similar discharge of raw sewage into the Strait fo Juan de Fuca by communities within Greater Victoria.
In 2015, communities were given a Dec. 31 2020 deadline to meet federal standards for wastewater treatment.
The joint federal, provincial and municipal funding came through the Green Infrastructure Stream – Environmental Quality program of the Investing in Canada infrastructure plan and the Small Communities Fund of the New Building Canada Fund.