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This $775M wastewater plant in B.C. is still seeing odour complaints

Neighbouring residents doubt the sewage treatment site’s smells will ever go away

Bad smells continue to waft into the daily lives of those living around the $775-million McLoughlin Point Wastewater Treatment Plant in Greater Victoria, despite the project’s promise to not cause noticeable odours beyond its property.

“I don’t think the community has much confidence left in terms of the plant ever being odourless and this is what we were promised when they were allowed to build it,” said Rozlynne Mitchell, who lives nearby and chairs the West Bay Residents Association.

Her group continues to hear about the unpleasant smells – which arose after the plant started up a few years ago – from those living near the harbour, fishers and boaters.

There were 101 official complaints in 2022 and about 20 related to the sewage treatment site so far in 2023 (as of mid-June). The Capital Regional District said the 2023 figure is down, but the summer season lends to increased complaints as more people open their windows.

“We keep this in mind all the time that just because there’s no complaint doesn’t mean there’s no odour, and staff are working to reduce both,” staff said at a core area liquid waste management committee meeting last month.

The CRD told Black Press Media it continues to optimize the plant’s odour control systems to minimize the impact on the community.

Mitchell said the CRD has asked people to keep a log of when the odours arise. But with people already fed up with odours they were told they’d never have to deal with, Mitchell said the public shouldn’t be the ones flagging that the smells are present.

“Unfortunately it’s the responsibility of the community to complain before non-compliance of odour levels is investigated,” she said, adding it bothers her and others that the CRD appears to be basing odour monitoring on citizen complaints.

The West Bay residents want the CRD to set up monitors at designated spots in the community that would detect when odours exceed noticeable levels. They also hope a communication system could notify them when those issues arise.

The CRD told Black Press Media it regularly monitors odour, but did not address the West Bay association’s requests. The complaints it’s received over the last two years have been logged and mapped to analyze trends based on location, time and maintenance activities, according to a CRD spokesperson.

Several capital projects dedicated to reducing and controlling odours originating from the plant are ongoing, the CRD added, and all the money allocated to odour improvements is part of the facility’s original budget.

Noting the McLoughlin site was to be built with odour-reducing technology – which the CRD says has been fully functional since last September – Mitchell said the CRD should know when its plant isn’t performing as it’s supposed to.

“I would’ve thought that would be a requirement of a huge sewage treatment plant in the middle of a city, that they would be required to be monitoring the odour levels and the impact on the community and would be reporting out when it surpasses the contracted levels.”

Her association is still puzzled by the regional government’s decision to pay out the plant’s builders when project agreements said that wouldn’t happen until odour issues were resolved.

“So now the work to investigate and alleviate the odour issues falls to the CRD,” Mitchell said. “That leaves all the community members of the CRD responsible for not just odour, but any other issues from the plant.”

“I hope the CRD will get the odour issues under control but I’m not holding my breath.”

READ: For its neighbours, Greater Victoria’s wastewater plant woes flow through the nose

READ: CRD to pay bonus to wastewater plant builder despite smell complaints

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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