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Norgate sewage plant odour fears 'flushed'
Norgate residents have been offered $30 million worth of assurance — in the form of a two-stage odour control system — that no stench will escape from a new Lions Gate sewage treatment plant and permeate their community.
But how that odour containment infrastructure will be paid for, along with the rest of the estimated $500- to $700-million plant replacement project, remains to be seen.
Metro Vancouver hosted their last major public information meeting — on Thursday evening at Norgate elementary — before staff finalizes the preferred conceptual design for the new sewage plant.
The regional body's utilities committee chair, North Vancouver City Mayor Darrell Mussatto, made some opening remarks at the meeting.
"As many of you know the time has come for us to replace our Lions Gate Wastewater Treatment Plant, following more than 50 years of service," Mussatto told the assembled group comprised mainly of North Shore residents and Metro staff.
"It's hard to imagine but before that we just dumped it right into the chuck. So it was a remarkable improvement then, and we now have to take another giant leap forward."
The new sewage treatment plant will be located in an industrial zone at West First Street and Pemberton Avenue — two kilometres east of the old one.
Three short-listed design options, each with an overarching objective, were presented to the public earlier this year. The preferred design focuses on establishing community partnerships for the facility.
Meanwhile, the other options looked at a more advanced tertiary treatment that would exceed new federal standards around ocean pollution, and generating energy from waste, respectively.
Metro is, however, integrating a heat recovery system into the new wastewater treatment facility that could be tapped by North Van district's future energy system and the existing Lonsdale Energy Corporation.
An artist’s rendering depicts an elongated facility with solids handling contained at the west end of the plant and administrative offices and a multi-purpose space for educational groups on the other side.
The plans call for a public plaza with a reclaimed water feature, a rooftop viewing area that looks out to the waterfront and a green space buffer between the sidewalk along West First Street and the facility.
The 80 or so people who attended Thursday’s public information session were asked, by way of an electronic audience response system, if the overall design represented community values. The instant results posted on a large screen at the front of the room revealed 65 per cent of participants in the survey agreed that it does.
A second question was also asked: Does the preferred design address potential community impacts? Fifty-four per cent of respondents agreed that it does.
Edgemont Village resident Corrie Kost told The Outlook he wasn't given enough information to answer the questions.
“When are taxes going to go up as a result of this plant — before it's going to be completed or after?” questioned Kost. “You shouldn't pay any increased taxes until you start receiving the improvements.”
Construction impacts on the surrounding community was another concern voiced at the meeting. The sound of pile driving during foundation preparation for the new Vancouver Convention Centre carried across the water and impacted the Norgate neighbourhood, said one area resident.
“This is much closer. Are you going to be using the same technology on this site,” the man asked Metro staff.
He was told the new wastewater treatment plant would be designed to survive a large earthquake and therefore likely require a significantly strong foundation.
As part of Metro’s community engagement process for the Lions Gate wastewater plant project, a public advisory committee was formed.
“Our role is to discover and elicit from the community what the values, community concerns and community aspirations for this project are,” said Christine Banham, chair of the project’s public advisory committee.
The 15 or so committee members represent Norgate residents, other North Shore communities and broader interests including environmental issues.
Metro struck another subcommittee this month to look at procurement options for the new plant. Currently, they are investigating two key federal funding programs: the Building Canada Plan and the P3 Canada Fund (public-private partnership).
Announced by Ottawa last year, there is no application process available yet for the Building Canada Plan, which contains $10 billion for infrastructure improvements of “national, regional and local significance.”
Mussatto was frank about the imminent financial impact for North Shore taxpayers.
“It's safe to say that you will see an increase in your sewage utility, and to what degree we still don't have enough information,” he told the meeting.
“It's safe to say that if we don't get any funding it would be a very significant increase — so much so that I believe the Metro Vancouver board would not be proceeding with the project if there was no cost-sharing formula with the provincial government.”
Afterwards, Mussatto told The Outlook, without financial support from the other governments, North Shore taxpayers’ sewage rates could soar as high as four times what they are paying now.
Under 2013 utility rates, sewage fees for a detached home are $247.50 in the city and $521 in the district.
Mussatto wants Metro to move away from the current funding model for wastewater capital projects, where the benefitting area pays 30 per cent of the cost and the other municipalities chip in the rest.
The preferred design concept for the new Lions Gate wastewater plant will go before the Metro Vancouver board for a decision on Nov. 15.
A current timeline calls for a six-year design and construction phase starting next year, making the plant operational by 2020.