Andrew Gower, Wedler Engineering
Lately, the local papers have been full of letters and articles for and against the controversial proposed sanitary pump station on Beech St in the CVRD/Comox. However, what none of the coverage to date has really explained properly is the massive environmental risk the new pump station will alleviate.
When the Comox Valley regional sewage treatment system was implemented, environmental protection and regulations were not as high a priority as they are today. As such, the decision was made to do what was most affordable up front, and build the sanitary sewage force main from the Comox Pump station (adjacent to the Field Sawmill site) to the treatment plant along the foreshore. No roads to repair, easy digging and a flat route for the pipe.
Fast forward to today, and that “cheap at the time” forcemain decision has caught up to us. Winter storms have exposed sections of it along the Willemar Bluff, and a recent risk assessment determined there was a 50% chance of a catastrophic failure within the next 5 years. Let’s make this clear – a 1 in 2 chance that in the next 5 years the forcemain will break, and raw sewage would spill onto the beach and run into the ocean.
By comparison, the risks to the Beech St neighbourhood have been assessed as moderate to low in an impact assessment of the ground water. The “moderate” risk to ground water was if the new force main ruptures. Considering the very small chance of this happening considering modern standards and materials, the absolute risk is almost zero.
The CVRD and the Sewage Commission have made the correct and best decision with respect to the Beech St Pump Station. All due process has been followed, and it is time to get on with this project and remove the risk presented by the existing forcemain along the foreshore.
Andrew Gower is a partner and Courtenay branch manager of Wedler Engineering. He volunteers with several local non-profits and is passionate about the Comox Valley’s sustainable future. He can be reached at 250.334.3263 or www.wedler.com.