A proposed sewage outfall project aimed a helping provide a home to a displaced B.C. First Nation does not have the support of its new nieghbours on Vancouver Island.
The Tlowitsis First Nation’s new sewage treatment plant proposal for the Nenagwas Community features an outfall pipe at Stories Beach near Campbell River that would extend 2.9 km out into the Straight of Georgia that will not have the support of the Strathcona Regional District.
“The level of treatment that they’re engaging in is the highest level of treatment out there,” said chief administrative officer David Leitch during the March 10 meeting. “It’s classified as Class A treatment. There’s no higher.”
The SRD has received letters from people living in the area opposing the project, concerned about risks the aquatic environment would take on if the project is to go ahead. The Council of BC Yacht Clubs also wrote about the effect the outfall would have on the temporary anchorage in the area.
These concerns were echoed by Area D director Brenda Leigh, who said that “we have all kinds of bylaws in place in Area D to protect the foreshore environment … I would dare say that most people in Campbell River love coming to Stories Beach for picnics with their families. It’s not the right place to put this sewage outfall.”
Quadra Island Director Jim Abram also spoke against the project saying Area D had opposed sewage outfalls on the beach in a previous OCP amendment, and that “Nobody wanted to have sewage outfall going in to very very highly used aquatic environment … where little kids are around digging in the sand with their little buckets and such.”
“It’s just not a good thing to do. The community has already spoken on that issue,” he added.
However, not all directors agreed. Campbell River director Charlie Cornfield asked what the difference would be between this and the city’s own sewage treatment plant and outfall that is just a few kilometres north of the proposed outfall. He also noted that septic systems can be damaging to coastal ecosystems.
Cornfield said he remembers a study that was done showing how much of the same shoreline “has been polluted and is no longer available for shellfish productions because of septic systems. Septic systems all leach and they all head to the ocean. That’s contaminated more beaches than anything,” he said. “A properly designed sewage treatment outfall stuck way out into the ocean is a far better resolution to the situation than increasing septic disposal.”
Cortes Island director Noba Anderson questioned the fairness of not supporting the application, considering the history of settler development in an area not formally ceded by First Nations.
“This area has been developed both with sewer and septic by a whole lot of settlers for a long time. We have a First Nation of this area in general who is also trying to develop housing,” she said. “I don’t think it is possibly fair … that we recommend denying this unless we’re willing to work with them on an alternative.”
Though the board does not own the project or have jurisdiction, they voted to not support it, saying they would support development of a system that was “fully contained within the Tlowitsis lands.”