GVRD nixes city wastewater plan

Published on Thu, Nov 13, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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GVRD nixes city wastewater plan

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

The city of Blaine�s hopes of solving wastewater issues by sending its waste to Canada have been flushed.

The Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) informed the city of Blaine on Monday, via a letter, that it would not be able to serve the city because it is outside of their service area. Sending waste to Canada had emerged as the preferred alternative to finding a wastewater solution, following months of planning between city staff and the Citizens Wastewater Advisory Committee (CWAC), a group of 10 residents from a broad range of backgrounds.

City manager Gary Tomsic said the letter was unexpected and that he was disappointed that GVRD officials did not contact Blaine while they were discussing the issue. GVRD�s decision came in just the form of a letter, and no calls had been received. �I got it Monday in the mail,� he said.

When asked if he was planning on calling GVRD himself, Tomsic said no. The last time the city of Blaine had communication with GVRD concerning the waste alternative was several months ago, Tomsic said.

�We met the staff at GVRD and talked to them about what we were thinking,� he said, noting public works director Steve Banham had attended, as well as John Spencer of CH2M Hill, a Colorado-based engineering company working with the city. �The response (from the GVRD) was kind of neutral. I actually came away from the meeting a little concerned, that trying to get this done through their system would be a little difficult. I didn�t come out of the meeting necessarily encouraged that they were on board. But, we weren�t told in any way it wasn�t going to happen.�

When asked how the meeting was left � in terms of when they would meet again � Tomsic said he had the impression they would meet after Blaine completed its comprehensive sewer plan. The city had hoped to have a comprehensive plan completed by the first of the year, he said.

Following CWAC�s final development of preferred alternatives, Banham met with the city of Surrey several times.

�I last met with Surrey on September 18. I have had telephone conversations with them since that time and in fact I had been talking with one of their engineers earlier this past Monday before we received the letter from GVRD,� Banham said.

Surrey had done an engineering report for the city, as well as some cost estimates and a mock-up plan, city officials stated.

�We were pretty encouraged that the city of Surrey was interested in working with us,� Tomsic said.

Banham had contacted the GVRD, attempting to make their meeting agenda and speak of city plans; however, he was told GVRD wouldn�t be able to do that until after the first of the year, as they do not meet in December, Tomsic said.

�Our plan was then to get on the agenda, before them, as soon as possible after the first of the year,� he said.

Banham called the city of Surrey on Monday to inform them of GVRD�s decision, to which they were a little surprised.

�Of course I am disappointed. This was a solution that preserved water quality at a lower cost and so it had the least impact on Blaine ratepayers,� Banham said. �In our discussions with the city of Surrey we understood that this was a possible win-win for both communities. We always realized that there was some risk associated with this approach. That is why the CWAC specifically included a non-Canadian, Marine Drive, alternative. In some ways it is better that we learn this early in the process before wasting any significant time and effort.�

Now that the preferred alternative is off the list, city staff will meet again with CWAC next week to discuss the situation.

�We�re just kind of taking a step back and seeing what�s going on right now. It takes us back to one of the other options,� Tomsic said. �CWAC had recommended two options to the council, the first to Surrey and the second to build a treatment plant on Marine Drive, which has a sub-option of building one plant on Marine Drive, and another plant on the west side, which eliminates a harbor crossing.�

Tomsic said it was really the cost of the two projects that caused Surrey to be the top alternative. The estimated annual cost for the Surrey option for 25 years was $1,832,428; for Marine Drive, it was $2,760,023.

�If they (CWAC) feel comfortable with a recommendation that a Marine Drive plant is what they want to do, then we�ll get that back to the city council,� Tomsic said.�If that�s what it is, we�ll move forward with that.�

When asked if an alternative involving Birch Bay would be discussed, Tomsic said it�s possible. �That option didn�t really rank very high, but it certainly remains a possibility. I�d be surprised if it came up to number one,� he said. �It�s very similar to Surrey, it just requires lift stations and piping to Birch Bay. But it was much more expensive, well over $30 million.�

CWAC meets Tuesday, November 18 at 5:15 p.m. at city hall.

GVRD could not be reached for comment as of press time.

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