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July 18, 2012

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Vancouver Island Water Watch raises concerns over new wastewater treatment plant

VICTORIA—Federal, provincial and regional governments have all committed to fund a $782 million secondary sewage treatment plant in the capital region.

Vancouver Island Water Watch (VIWW) spokesperson Rodger Oakley said that while the group is happy this project is moving forward, they have some serious concerns about the biosolids energy centre being operated as a Public Private Partnership (P3).

“This is a unique situation, however first and foremost we believe that infrastructure should be publicly owned and operated. Our concern is the term of this contract, which is 25 years, and the CRD’s loss of control of the biosolids energy centre. We don’t believe that residents will be well served by a private company whose main concern is profit,” states Oakley.

Conservative MP James Moore announced yesterday that the federal government would contribute $253 million to the project that will put an end to Victoria dumping raw sewage into the ocean.

The new wastewater treatment plant, the Core Area Wastewater Treatment Program (CAWTP), is a three part project; two thirds of the project will be publicly operated while one part will be privately operated through the federal government’s P3 initiative.

 “There’s an overwhelming amount of P3 projects that have had cost overruns and left municipalities with a huge bill,” warns Oakley. “Municipalities are responsible for delivering services while private companies are responsible for delivering profits to their shareholders. If this project is more expensive than expected, and it likely will be, the private partner will not be responsible for paying for the overrun instead Victoria municipalities will be.”

While public dollars will pay for the biosolids energy centre, once the centre is completed an unknown private partner will operate the facility and profit from Victoria resident’s sewage.

VIWW is recommending that the CRD review the term of the contract and opt for something shorter. The group is a favour of a three to five year contract that would allow for the centre to be transitioned back into public hands and controlled by the CRD.

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