(Updated September 8th 2016) 

"Great is the power of mis-representation, but the history of science shows that fortunately this power is not long enjoyed"  Charles Darwin - the Origin of Species - 1872


The Capital Regional District has been planning since 2006 to construct land based sewage treatment plants to serve the core area municipalities (Victoria, Oak Bay, Esquimalt, Saanich, Langford, View Royal and Colwood). The decision to go ahead with the plans was supported by the political decisions of three levels of government – Municipal, Provincial and Federal.  The credible judgement of Marine Scientists, Public Health officials and Engineers that the present discharge of the screened effluent into a unique marine receiving environment, through two deep sea outfalls, is highly effective in treating the effluent, has largely been ignored. See: Marine Scientists Review


The CRD must have a Liquid Waste Management plan approved by the BC Minister of Environment. Amendment 8 involved a treatment plant at McLoughlin Point, an 18 kilometer double pipe to and from the Hartland land fill, a sludge treatment plant at the land fill and then what was to be determined disposal of the sludge. The McLoughlin point plant was to provide secondary treatment for 2x Average Dry Water Flow and primary treatment for up to 4x ADWF. This treatment plant would have increased the solids in the sewage from 0.1% to 2-3%. This means that the sewage that would still be 97% water which has to be disposed of through a new outfall that was planned to be at McLoughlin point after removal of the solids (sludge). There was to be an additional 4 KM of pipeline from Clover Point to McLoughlin Point. An Amendment 9  of the LWMP (which had a few adjustments of Amendment 8) was approved by the CRD Board and submitted to the Provincial Minister of Environment for approval in January 2014. Amendment 9 was later given conditional approval by the Minister of Environment on July 3rd 2014.

On May 27th 2014 the CRD announced that it would not be proceeding with a Sewage Treatment Plant at McLoughlin Point. This meant that the complete treatment plan had to be revised including the pipelines and a new Liquid Waste Management Plan submitted to the Minister of the Environment for approval.

In January 2015 the CRD formed two public consultation groups. One group West Side Solutions and  is made up of Langford, Colwood, Esquimalt, View Royal and the Songhees Nation. See: www.WestsideSolutions.ca.   This group identified many sites that could be used for land based sewage treatment. 

It is noted that it is considered out of scope for the public to comment on "Challenging the regulatory requirements for wastewater treatment" which is what RSTV has been advocating for for several years. 

The second group called East Side solutions lead by elected officials from Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay carried out public consultations and identified a number of sites for land based sewage treatment plants to be built. 

As of November 4th 2015 the CRD's Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee combined the two (Westside and Eastside) committees and now have before them four options for sites for land based sewage treatment plants. 

Details are available at :


As of September 7th 2016, following a report by an appointed Project Board the CRD will now need to apply for a LWMP Version 11.  


On March 20th 2013 the CRD announced that it had bought a parcel of land on Viewfield Road in Esquimalt as the potential location for a new sludge treatment plant. The CRD announced it had entered into an agreement to buy 1.7 hectares of land, in two parcels, for $17 million. The land was the site of Wilson Foods, next to the popular Wholesale Club warehouse, and backs onto the E&N rail line and a B.C. Hydro substation in an industrial part of the township.

On July 3rd 2013 the CRD Board decided to abandon the idea of a sludge treatment plant on Viewfield Road in Esquimalt after hearing of the public opostion to the plant in that site. However there was still an agreement to purchase the land with a closing date of September 2014.

On February 27th 2014 the CRD announced a lease agreement. "The Capital Regional District (CRD) will own the two buildings located at 808 and 836 Viewfield Road on September 30, 2014. In advance of taking ownership the CRD is entering into a lease agreement with Wilson Foods for both buildings." 


There were uncertainties in the approved plan (Amendment 8) which staff informed the CRD’s core area liquid waste management committee (CALWMC) would need to be revised. Changes were included in Amendment 9 that was submitted to the provincial Minister of the Environment in 2014. On July 3rd 2014 the Minister of Environment gave conditional approval to Amendment 9 subject to certain conditions.

The public was informed that there would be Federal and Provincial contributions to the plan. There is a legal agreement in place for the Provincial Contribution (1/3 of Capital Costs on substantial completion of the project) but there is still (November 2015) no legal agreement for the Federal cost sharing of 1/3 of the capital costs of the project. It appears that there has been an extension for the deadline for approval of the Federal constributions while the CRD comes up with a new plan.

Following the May 27th 2014 announcement there will need to be a revised Liquid Waste Management Plan submitted to the Provincial Minister of the Environment for approval.

The many options were discussed by the CALWMC on June 11th 2014.

As of September 7th 2016, following a report by an appointed Project Board the CRD will now need to apply for a LWMP Version 11.  


It was expected that the current cost estimate of the plan of $788.5 Million capital costs and on going $14.5 Million operating costs, which were “Class C” estimates (which means +/- 25%) would be exceeded as is the norm for mega projects of this type. (The estimate was increased from $783 to $788.5 Million in May 2014)  There was an assumption that there would be $5 Million in resource recovery revenue in the annual operating costs. This was hypothetical.

Published in the May 2014 issue of Public Sector Digest, University of Victoria Economist Rebecca Warburton estimated that the 2014 building costs were now $847,204,281. (when adjusted for 2% annual inflation)  The total costs including the present value of the operating costs were estimated at $1,149,535,641. (This is using a discount rate of 5% and 50 year project life).

All these estimates are now hypothetical since with McLoughlin Point now not able to be used (based on the CRD's May 27th 2014 announcement) for a treatment plant. New cost estimates will need to be created for an ammended Liquid Waste Management Plan. 

 On March 27th 2013 the CRD Board gave second reading to a loan authorisation by-law (#3887) for the borrowing of $100 Million to cover approved budgeted costs for the immediate future. On April 10th 2013 the CRD had another by-law (#3888) that would enable temporary borrowing of the $100 Million since the Municipal Finance Authority funding was not available until the fall of 2013. Both Bylaw #3888 and #3887 were approved by the Board on April 10th 2013.

The CRD will incur an estimated $11.7 Million in temporary borrowing costs before the project is completed.

Until 2018 there will be an estimated $35 Million in operating and debt servicing costs. After this the operating costs were estimated at $14.5 Million per year. This will be changed with a new plan.

Interest rates paid were calculated at 1.75% for temporary borrowing and 5% for long term borrowing. The interest rate for what was to be the Private Public Partnerships part of the project - the sludge treatment facility and dual pipage from McLoughlin Point (It is also being called a Biosolids center or the “Energy Center”) would be higher because of the private financing. 

The CRD resolved to assess the local taxpayer, by requisition to the member municipalities, an extra $5 Million a year ahead of incurring all the costs on completion of the project. As was stated in a staff report “An orderly annual predictable increase will reduce the shock of this increased expenditure”. Without this measure there would be a significant increase incurred by the municipal taxpayers in 2018 but by doing this the CRD will be incurring the additional $11.7 Million in borrowing costs.  

In the year 2013 the project management team and the Commission planned to spend $47,376,000. The CRD approved $23,376,000 in additional funding to be spent in 2013. (the $47.3 Million is only a one year cost - the CRD has incurred additional costs since 2006 in the planning of land based sewage treatment).

Following the announcement on May 27th 2014 that a sewage treatment plant would not be built at McLoughlin Point the CRD will now have to spend more funds planning for the future before a new projected estimate for the capital costs will be available.

Staff reports to the CALWMC for June 11th 2014 indicated there was no way of estimating the cost at that time. The staff report does give estimated financial impacts if the Federal funding contributions are not received.

As of October 31st 2014 the Seaterra Commission reported that they had spent $36,814,301 on the project.

Based on staff presentations to the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee in January 2015 the CRD has already spent $69.4 Million on planning including land acquisition. 

As of September 7th 2016 the appointed Project Board is recommending that the McLoughlin site be approved again and have indicated that the new capital costs for the new plan will be $765 Million including the land costs.


In 2013 the CRD formed the Core Area Wastewater Treatment Program Commission (CAWTPC) to manage the project. The budget for the compensation of Commission members was approved at $282,000 per year. (This includes a $750 per diem for members to attend meetings).

The Project team established an office at 510-1675 Douglas Street. 

Following the announcement on May 27th 2014, the future of the Seaterra Commission is in doubt since it was created to carry out an approved Liquid Waste Management Plan (Amendment 9).

The Seaterra Commission ceased all planning activities with the exception of the construction of the Craigflower Pump Station and the planning for the Arbutus Road attenuation tanks on June 27th 2014. 

In May 2015 public speakers to the CALWMC were advocating for abolishment of the Seaterra Commission.


On July 31st 2013 the Commission chairperson Brenda Eaton announced the hiring of Albert Sweetnam as the sewage treatment program Director on a five year contract with a salary of $290,000 per year plus benefits. The contract includes a bonus of $290,000 if the project director is able to ensure the completion of the project by 2018. He took over responsibilities from Jack Hull, the interim project director, on September 9th 2013. Mr Sweetnam is a civil engineer with experience in large mining and nuclear projects.

On October 7th 2013 the Commission created a brand and renamed the project the Seaterra project.

On July 31st 2015 the CRD announced that: "the head of the Seaterra sewage program, who was still receiving a $290,000 annual salary even though the project was stalled, will be let go at the end of September.

Albert Sweetnam was at the top of the Capital Regional District’s salary list for 2014. He will receive just under $500,000 in severance pay.

Sweetnam was hired on a five-year contract in 2013 to manage a staff of more than 20 people. But after the project halted, along with the prospect of McLoughlin Point as a treatment site, he maintained the same pay, even though he was managing a pared-down program with the equivalent of four full-time workers.

The CRD announced Sweetnam’s departure Friday morning, following a meeting of the Seaterra Commission, which has been renamed the core area wastewater treatment program commission.

By the end of September, all staff will have completed their assignments and the office will close, the CRD said.

The commission office space will be leased out by the CRD. Almost all of the contracts specific to the project have been terminated. Outstanding items remaining in October will transition to CRD staff for wrap-up." 


On April 19th 2013 the CRD purchased McLoughlin Point from Imperial Oil for $4.6 Million.

On July 12th 2013 the CRD Core Area Wastewater Treatment Program Commission released the request for proposals to design and construct the McLoughlin Point Wastewater Treatment Plant Project. Three companies  Capital Clear; Harbour Resource Partners; and PCL Partnerships were invited to prepare and submit innovative, competitive proposals to design, construct, commission and partially finance the McLoughlin Point Wastewater Treatment Facility ; the Harbour Crossing Site and the Outfall and to provide Performance Management Services during a two year Performance Period.

Amazingly it was also stated that upon execution of the Project Agreement, the CRD will pay $250,000 inclusive of any taxes payable including GST to each unsuccessful proponent.  It appears now (July 2015) that all three companies will receive this payment.

In spite of not having approval to build on the site, on May 6th 2014 Seaterra chairperson Brenda Eaton announced that it has selected it's preferred company to build a new sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point. Harbour Resource Partners was picked to design, build and partially finance the planned treatment plant as well as the Victoria Harbour crossing and the marine outfall.

The McLoughlin Point required rezoning by the Municipality of Esquimalt. This rezoning hearing took place on April 7th 2014 after a delay caused by public hearings that required more time than expected due to the number of speakers, almost all opposing the rezoning of the site.

The Municipality of Esquimalt Councillors unanimously rejected the rezoning request by the CRD on April 7th 2014. Councillors also supported a motion that would remove the possible designated use of the McLoughlin Point site for a sewage treatment plant in the future.

Prior to the rezoning hearing there was a proposed agreement submitted to the Municipality by the CRD for amenities to be provided to Esquimalt and modification to the site to minimise the impact on the community. This agreement was subject to Esquimalt rezoning the site as requested by the CRD. 

The Province of BC does have the authority to rezone the site without Municipal approval but to date the Provincial Minister of Environment has declined to exercise that power. 

At the CRD’s Core Area Liquid Waste Management  committee meeting on Wednesday 9th April 2014, CRD directors voted to ask the provincial cabinet to intervene: either force through McLoughlin Point rezoning or provide other options. This the Province declined to do.

Provincial intervention could prove more complex than anticipated. In response to a question from Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Andrew Weaver in the legislature, Environment Minister Mary Polak said the province has no plans to wade into the sewage debate.

"We've said from the beginning that this is an issue that the local governments need to grapple with, understanding that they're the ones who are obligated to begin treatment of their sewage. We have no plans to intervene," Polak said.

Following a response to a formal request from the CRD, Environment Minister Polak announced on May 27th that the Province was not going to be involved and the CRD then announced that it will not be building a sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point.

Staff reports for the June 11th 2014 meeting of the CALWMC indicate this matter was discussed in camera at the meeting.

On May 27th 2014 CRD announced it would not be using McLoughlin Point for a sewage treatment plant. (What would the CRD do with this site if if it not used for a Sewage Treatment Plant?)  

On September 7th 2016 the Project Board appointed by the CRD (as recommened by Provincial Minister of Environment Peter Fassbender) is recommending that McLoughlin Point be the site of a sewage treatment plant. If the CRD Board approves the plan the site will need the approval of Esquimalt Council.


A study of the marine environment around the proposed new outfall at McLoughlin point was completed. A report on the assessment was discussed on 11th of September 2013 by the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee. The staff report accompanying this report was misleading – it overstated the conclusion of the report summary. The staff report said that the McLoughlin point outfall will “significantly reduce the risk to human health and shellfish relative to the existing Macaulay/Clover system”. This was an unsupported overstatement of the conclusion of the report.  The report actually said “The proposed discharge of secondary treated wastewater for a new McLoughlin Point marine outfall is not predicted to result in significant adverse effects to human health or the receiving environment”.  

Update September 2016.

In May 2016 Provincial Minister of Environment Peter Fassbender intervened and with the CRD Board's agreement appointed a project board to come up with a plan to develop a business case that would enable the CRD to comply with the Federal Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations (Fisheries Act) and to obtain funding from the Provincial and Federal Governments.

On September 7th 2016 the Project Board announced the plan which is a modification of the previous McLoughlin Point plan developed by the Seaterra Project. The details are contained in the CRD's web site: http://www.crd.bc.ca/project/wastewater-planning/project-board

This plan now has to be approved by the CRD Board at its meeting on September 14th. It is of interest that the chair of the CRD Board is Director Barbara Desjardins - who is also the Mayor of Esquimalt. The zoning for the proposed plant also has to be approved by Esquimalt Council who had previously rejected having a sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point. In addition the funding from Federal and Provincial sources needs to be confirmed.

The details of the business case are available from the CRD at:  http://www.crd.bc.ca/docs/default-source/Wastewater-Planning-2014/Project-Board/appendix1crdbusinesscasefinal.pdf?sfvrsn=0 

"The Project Board asks that the CRD Board of Directors approve this business case. If approved, the provincial and federal governments will consider confirmation of their funding by September 30, 2016."

As stated by the Project Board there are risks in approving this project.

"There are risks to starting the project and risks to completing the project.

Risks to starting the project include:

• Confirmation of zoning compliance and development permit approval in a timely manner • Finalizing funding agreements with senior levels of government

• Acceptance of the Amendment #11 to the Liquid Waste Management Plan • Reaching a satisfactory agreement with HRP

• Successful and timely completion of the procurements for the biosolids treatment plant and the balance of the conveyance system upgrades

Risks to completing the Project include:

• Cost overrun and schedule risk not transferred to the proponents; these risks remain with the CRD – senior government funding is capped

• Other risks typical of a large construction project 

Original document 28 February, 2013 (Updated September 8th 2016).