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


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.

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.

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

Please attend the City’s  Liquid Waste Management Steering Committee meeting:

When: 11 AM, Thursday, June 2
Where: City Hall

This meeting is open to the public. Water Watch will be presenting our petition asking Council to reject joint  treatment with Catalyst.

We don’t have your name on the most recent Water Watch petition, and this is your last chance to sign before it is handed in to Council.

You can add your name to the petition online also.

At this Thursday’s meeting, Councillors will decide what they will do with the public input they’ve received. The report on the public consultations stated:

“Input from the community through the Open House and Word Cafe  processes overwhelmingly supports some form of publicly owned  sewage treatment facility for Powell River.  A joint treatment with Catalyst option was rejected on all levels.”

You can see this report at: http://powellriver.fileprosite.com/Documents/DocumentList.aspx?ID=1718

Councillors will also decide on Thursday whether to accept the nearly unanimous recommendation from the Joint Advisory Committee that Powell River should choose a publicly owned and operated sewage system.  The only advisory committee member to oppose this recommendation was the representative of the mill who had originally proposed joint treatment to the City.  The vote was 10 to 1 for a public option.

Urge Councillors to accept the overwhelming feedback from the public consultations and the recommendation from the Advisory Committee in favour a public option for Powell River’s sewage system:

Email councillors 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

or phone
Mayor Stewart Alsgard
(604) 485-4489

Councillor Debbie Dee
(604) 485-0342

Councillor Dave Formosa
(604) 485-6080

Councillor Maggie Hathaway
(604) 485-5087 (h)
(604) 485-1249

Councillor Chris McNaughton
(604) 483-9597 (h)
(604) 414-9549

Councillor Jim Palm
(604) 485-9335 (h)
(604) 483-3171
(604) 414-5960

Councillor Aaron Pinch
604) 485-0888
(ext 115)

And if you have questions about this issue – the costs of different options, the environmental impacts, concerns with privatization –   email us at prwaterwatch@gmail.com

Important Meetings!


If you missed it, the facilitator’s report about the public meetings at the JAC meeting last Thursday showed that the public rejected joint treatment at the Catalyst mill in no uncertain terms.  At the same meeting, the JAC voted for a consolidated public facility and to recommend the same to the Steering Committee.

However, there is a special meeting of the JAC to reconsider this vote in favour of a consolidated public facility.  More information is available in this breaking news item from the Peak website.


The agenda for this meeting was not on the City’s website, but hopefully it will be posted here soon.  This is the meeting where the Steering Committee may well make the decision to proceed with joint treatment despite the public’s clear rejection.

There are now more than 1000 names on the Water Watch Coalition petition against joint treatment, so we will be presenting it to the Steering Committee at this meeting.  This is a good follow-up to the facilitator’s report on the public meetings.  If you haven’t signed yet, please click the link above and add your name and thoughts, and please come along to the meeting Thursday to show support.

“Joint treatment” is the proposal to turn over Powell River municipal sewage   treatment to Catalyst and get rid of the City’s own treatment plants.  The City would have to build a plant to “pre-treat” its sewage before it went to the mill.

Powell River will be stuck with no way to treat its sewage if the mill closes on short notice.  Catalyst has refused to allow Powell River to use its treatment plant if the mill closes. We could have to discharge raw sewage into Malaspina Strait.

No savings on sewage charges – The City’s engineering consultant warned that the City has to be prepared for a mill closure and ensure that the necessary funds are available on short notice to build a new City treatment plant.

City’s estimated costs of joint treatment don’t include risk of mill closing

Willingdon Beach Trail being considered for new sewer line to the mill – construction would cause environmental damage

 Mill ownership keeps changing – MacMillan Bloedel, Pacifica, Norske, Catalyst – Who will be the new owners of Powell River’s sewage system and will they want to change the contract and charge more?

 No plan to disinfect city sewage before it is sent to the mill – potential danger to health of mill workers

 Added costs from privatizing sewage treatment – legal fees and consultants. Whistler rejected privatization of sewage system partly because these costs ballooned to $1.3 million before a contract was ever signed.

Powell River would be going backwards – from tertiary sewage treatment at the Westview plant to secondary.

 Critical information not known – Will the mill’s abandoned clarifier be used? Will the sewer lines be constructed on Willingdon Beach Trail? Will anything be done to protect mill workers from pathogens in city sewage?

The City’s estimates of costs keep changing – they say these estimates are “in flux”

City may have to pay the mill’s owners if their treatment plant is damaged by city sewage

Citizens need to have their say in a referendum on any plan to privatize such a critical municipal service