Archive for June, 2011


Starting in 2001, Powell River pays for studies and consults the public to develop a new sewage plan. The Waste Transfer site is the location the public and City committees recommend for a new consolidated treatment plant.


Council adopts Powell River’s Stage 2 Liquid Waste Management Report that identifies the Waste Transfer site as the location for a consolidated public waste treatment plant.


MOE approves Powell River’s plan for a public waste treatment plant at the Waste Transfer site.


Catalyst asks City Council for a contract to treat city sewage at its sewage treatment plant. Raising concerns over possible mill closure, labour stoppages and other issues, the City Engineer Don MacKinnon describes joint treatment “as a $15- to $20-million gamble on the future of Catalyst.”


April – City Council signs an Agreement in Principle with Catalyst for a 20 year joint treatment deal as one part of Powell River’s “plan to reduce the property tax rate for major industry.”

May – A study experimenting with treating combined City and Catalyst liquid waste finds that the effluent produced would not comply with Catalyst’s permit. This negative result is dismissed as merely a problem with the test method.

August – Catalyst’s lawyers inform the City that the mill’s plant would not be available for city use after a mill closure.

October – Consulting engineers issue draft report on joint treatment. The report advises: “The City should be prepared for the Mill closure on short notice. The City will also need assurance that the necessary funds are available on short notice.”


January – City applies for $7.27 million for joint treatment from the federal-provincial Innovations Fund. The application states that “The Joint Treatment option was selected in consultation with stakeholders…” In fact no public consultation meetings had been held and the Liquid Waste Joint Advisory Committee had not made any recommendation on the preferred option.

February – City announces it will hold its first public consultation meetings on joint treatment versus the public options.

May – The City decides to drop any risk factor to account for mill closure from the cost estimates it presents to the public.

May – The City holds a public Open House and dialogue meeting on sewage option

May – The report on the public consultation is published.  It concludes: “The input from the community through the Open House and Word Cafe processes overwhelmingly support some form of consolidated plant facility for Powell River. A joint treatment option was rejected on all levels.”

May – The Advisory Committee votes 10 to 1 in favour of a publicly owned and operated treatment facility.  The dissenting vote is cast by the mill’s representative on the committee, the person who originally proposed joint treatment.

June – City Council votes to reject the recommendation of the Advisory Committee for a public facility.  It also rejects a motion to approve joint treatment.

On June 27, Council approves a third option labelled “Phased Consolidation”. The two phases of this option are first to enter into a joint treatment contract with the mill for 10 years using money from the Innovations Fund, and then for the City to build its own plant with 2/3 funding from senior governments.

Some of the conditions placed on Council approval of “Phased Consolidation” are:

– To get tests that show joint treatment can produce the quality of effluent required, since the first test failed to get an acceptable result.

– To find out whether disinfection is required for the safety of mill workers before city sewage is sent to the mill. Disinfection would make joint treatment prohibitively expensive.

– To acquire land required for pre-treatment.

The Phased Consolidation Option was never presented to the public in the consultation process, despite Section 27 (1) of the Environmental Management Act.  This Section states that municipalities “shall provide a process for comprehensive review and consultation with the public respecting all aspects of the development, amendment and final content of a waste management plan . . . ”

Estimates are published showing capital costs of the Phased Consolidation Option would be more than if the City just built its own public plant from the beginning. $1.74 million in capital costs would be spent on pipelines connecting City sewers to the mill, an asset that would become worthless under the Phased Consolidation Option when the City builds its own plant. This capital expenditure on infrastructure that will be abandoned amounts to 24% of the money the City has applied for from the Innovations Fund.





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On Monday June 27at 1 PM at City Hall, City Council will make a final decision on their sewage plan before they send the plan to the provincial government for approval.

Water Watch is encouraging people to attend this meeting. Councillors will vote on a new sewage option recently proposed called “Phased Consolidation.”  A staff report describes “Phased Consolidation” as a “third sewage treatment option” which involves going with joint treatment initially and then building a City plant in the Townsite.

But the overwhelming feedback the City received from its public consultation was for a public sewage system, not to hand over sewage treatment to Catalyst and then build a public plant some time in the future.  By a 10 to 1 vote the Joint Advisory Committee also passed a motion

“That a recommendation be made to the Steering Committee to select a publicly owned and operated consolidation option for treatment of the City’s wastewater.”

This new City proposal  for joint treatment first and a public plant later was never presented for public discussion during the City’s sewage public consultation meetings. According to the Environmental Management Act, cities are required to have comprehensive public consultation on all aspects of the final content of a sewage plan. But the City apparently intends to avoid doing this.

The public is also supposed to be given the costs of the proposed option before it is approved.

According to last week’s staff report, the new “Phased Consolidation” option starting off with joint treatment would cost the city at least $4 million more over its life cycle than if the City just built its own public plant. (“Phased Consolidation” would cost $23.3 million, building a public plant would cost $18,964,000).

Part of this additional cost is to pay for running a sewer line to the mill, infrastructure that will be useless when the City builds its own plant.

This June, a permanent federal fund to help pay for sewage projects was established, one Powell River could apply to for a public plant.

City Councillors need to hear from you in advance of Monday’s meeting if you have concerns about them approving their new “Phased Consolidation” option with no public input.

Email councilors at: salsgard@cdpr.bc.ca; ddee@cdpr.bc.ca; dformosa@cdpr.bc.ca; mhathaway@cdpr.bc.ca; cmcnaughton@cdpr.bc.ca; jpalm@cdpr.bc.ca; apinch@cdpr.bc.ca

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WWC would like to advise petition signers that we have discovered that a City Councillor is using the petition to contact people in order to change their opinion on the sewage treatment issue.  It was absolutely not our intention that the petition be used by a Councillor as a call list. Because the petition was presented at a public council meeting, this does not breach privacy rules; however, WWC feels it is unethical.

We would very much like to thank everyone who signed, and we apologize to all signers for any inconvenience or discomfort this Councillor’s actions may have caused.

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First of all THANK YOU! to the more than 1100 people who signed the Water Watch petition supporting a publicly owned & operated sewage treatment facility!  The petition was presented to the LWM Steering Committee at their meeting June 2.

At this same meeting, the committee rejected the recommendation made by the Joint Advisory Committee (May 30) for a publicly owned & operated co-treatment facility.  Councillor Jim Palm, Chair of both the Steering and Joint Advisory Committees, voted in favour of this recommendation at the JAC meeting but against it at the Steering Committee.  If he had supported the motion, it would have passed.  In a somewhat puzzling turn of events, the Steering Committee also voted against the motion made by Councillor McNaughton to recommend joint treatment of municipal sewage at the Catalyst Paper mill.

In rejecting the JAC’s recommendation for a publicly owned & operated facility, the Steering Committee totally rejected the public input they have spent so much time, energy and money getting. The results of the two public meetings were overwhelming support of a publicly owned & operated facility and total rejection of joint treatment, yet the City still insists on listening to an invisible silent majority that they say supports joint treatment.  [This week’s Peak features an excellent editorial on this.]  They are also completely ignoring the voices of over 1100 people who signed our petition in favour of the public option which was presented to the Steering Committee at last week’s meeting.

The Steering Committee did vote to recommend that Council hold the Town Hall meeting before a decision between a public facility or joint treatment is made.  At the Council meeting the same evening, Council accepted the recommendatin and have directed staff to advise options for this meeting at the June 16 council meeting.

The cynical among us will likely wonder if the mythical ‘silent majority’ that the Steering Committee/Council claims supports joint treatment will be any more likely to show up at a Town Hall meeting in the middle of summer than they were at the two spring meetings.  The cynical among us will also likely wonder if those who support the public option will bother showing up because the Steering Committee/Council obviously does not care to hear what they think so they may as well stay up the lake or on the beach or in the trails with the silent majority.

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News release: For immediate release
May 30, 2011
Water Watch Coalition calls on Council to abandon co-treatment

The Powell River Water Watch Coalition is calling on city council
to abandon its drive to privatize the city’s sewage treatment. It has
gathered over 1000 names on a petition that asks the city to “..reject
the co-treatment proposal and pursue a publicly owned plant with
effective odour control.”

The petition will be presented on Thursday to the Liquid Waste
management Plan Steering Committee which will be recommending a
sewage treatment option to city council.

“After the overwhelming rejection of the co-treatment option by the
consultation ‘dialogue’ held by the city, it seems obvious that there is
virtually no public support for it,” said Murray Dobbin of Water Watch.

This goes beyond just the issue of what option to pursue regarding
Powell River’s waste water, it goes to the issue of trust, said the
Water watch statement. “The facilitator’s report was unequivocal
about the impact this issue is having on public confidence in city

council, said Dobbin “It stated: ‘Trust has become a casualty of
this process as it has unfolded. The perception of a ‘done deal’
has reinforced the feeling of a lack of honesty, transparency and
accountability which the community is clearly concerned about.’”

The city could go a long way to re-establishing trust by abandoning
the co-treatment option.

Water Watch is asking those opposed to the Catalyst deal to come
to the Steering Committee meeting at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, at city

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