Sewage commission commits funds to increase protection of coastline

The Comox Valley Regional District’s sewage commission has approved $1-million in funding to protect Goose Spit and Baynes Sound from environmental risks created by an aging sewer pipe.

At the most recent commission meeting, members were presented with a risk analysis of the large diameter sewer pipe currently installed within the beach below Willemar Bluffs (Balmoral Beach). The analysis identified serious potential risks due to beach erosion caused by exposure to wave action, and made recommendations aimed at protecting the pipe until the Comox No. 2 pump station is constructed and this section of forcemain is decommissioned.

The risk analysis, completed by Northwest Hydraulic Consultants, is now a public document and can be found here. 

"Given the high level of risk, it is imperative that we take immediate action to protect the environment," said Barbara Price, chair of the sewage commission. "The long term solution of a new pump station, that will allow us to decommission this section of pipe, is several years away. We must be proactive to protect our estuary, ocean, beaches and Baynes Sound shellfish industry. There is too much at risk to delay." 

The funds will be used to complete a highly specialized pipe condition assessment and to make immediate repairs to protective covers previously placed over the pipe. A request for proposal (RFP) will be issued and it is anticipated the contract will be awarded in January 2017 with the assessment completed by June 2017. Proponents will be asked to provide pricing for condition assessment of two sections of pipe: from the Courtenay Pump Station to Beech Road and from Beech Road to the Treatment Plant. A cost/benefit, risk analysis will be completed before finalizing the full scope of the assessment. Funding for the pipe condition assessment will be from the Comox Valley sewerage reserve fund. 

Even with the protective cover repair work, the risk of a failure exists. In the event of a spill, minimizing response time will be crucial to mitigating impacts. A detailed emergency spill response plan is being developed that includes mobilization of necessary labour, equipment and materials, identification of permits or approvals that can be obtained in advance, and development of a training program for staff. This plan will be completed in fall 2017.

The Comox Valley Regional District is a federation of three electoral areas and three municipalities providing sustainable services for residents and visitors to the area. The members of the regional district work collaboratively on services for the benefit of the diverse urban and rural areas of the Comox Valley.

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Media contact:

Kris La Rose, P.Eng.
Senior Manager of Water and Wastewater
Tel: 250-334-6083

Report Summary: Protecting the Coastline - Balmoral Beach (Willemar Bluffs) Risk Analysis

Background/General Overview

In the early 1980s, an eight-kilometre large diameter sewer pipe (forcemain) was installed to connect Courtenay and Comox to the Comox Valley Water Pollution Control Centre (CVWPCC). This included a two-kilometre portion buried two-metres deep in the foreshore along Balmoral Beach, at the foot of Willemar Bluffs. However, the area is subject to intense environmental conditions, and beach erosion has become an issue.

In the early 2000s, it was discovered that the foreshore section of pipe was exposed, with all of its cover washed away. Temporary measures were taken to protect it from erosion due to wave action, and relocating this portion of the line became part of considerations within the sewer master plan.

In 2011, the Comox Valley Sewer Master Plan was approved. It includes the proposal of a new Comox No. 2 pump station in the Croteau Beach neighbourhood that would allow for the realignment of the forcemain off the beach. Construction of the pump station will take up to three years to complete.

The Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) retained Northwest Hydraulic Consultants (NHC) to undertake a risk analysis on the portion of forcemain on Balmoral Beach, to determine the risk of failure and identify measures to mitigate those risks until the new pump station is operational and the forcemain can be decommissioned. Their assessment, presented to the Comox Valley Sewage Commission in October 2016, identifies significant risk for this section due to adverse environmental conditions caused by the wave action and beach erosion.

In response, $1 million in funds have been committed to complete a highly specialized pipe condition assessment and to make immediate repairs to protective covers previously placed over the pipe. A request for proposal (RFP) will be issued and it is anticipated the contract will be awarded in January 2017 with the assessment completed by June 2017. Proponents will be asked to provide pricing for condition assessment of two sections of pipe: from the Courtenay Pump Station to Beech Road and from Beech Road to the Treatment Plant. A cost/benefit, risk analysis will be completed before finalizing the full scope of the assessment.

Key Findings of Risk Analysis

  • Without undertaking additional work to protect the forcemain at Balmoral Beach, NHC projects a 50 per cent probability of a failure in the line occurring at least once in the next five years.
     
  • Because the line is underwater much of the time due to tides, and is particularly susceptible to wave action (increasing its vulnerability during storm events), it’s estimated that a failure could take 24 hours to be addressed. That could result in up to 60,000 m3 of raw sewage flowing into Baynes Sound.
     
  • The estimated repair cost of a single forcemain failure could cost the CVRD up to $1-2 million, not including the economic impacts to marine-based industry or fines from regulators.
     
  • The temporary protective measures – gabion baskets or ‘mattresses’ – installed in 2003 are deteriorating and are not projected to last another five years.
     
  • A further condition assessment of the pipe is necessary to confirm the risk analysis assumptions. 

Next Steps

  • Completion of a spill response plan: Even with the protective cover repair work the risk of a failure exists. In the event of a spill, minimizing response time will be crucial to mitigating impacts. A detailed emergency spill response plan is being developed that includes mobilization of necessary labour, equipment and materials, identification of permits or approvals that can be obtained in advance, and development of a training program for staff. This plan will be completed in fall 2016.
     
  • Repair of the damaged gabion baskets: This protective work is being initiated immediately to ensure integrity of the system in advance of the winter storm season.
     
  • Increased monitoring and inspections: Additional monitoring of the forcemain will be regularly scheduled.
     
  • Forcemain condition assessment: The CVRD is considering options for performing a detailed condition assessment of some or all portions of the foreshore forcemain. A request for proposals for this work is expected this fall. 

Click here to read the full report.

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Media contact:
Kris La Rose, P.Eng.
Senior Manager of Water and Wastewater
Tel: 250-334-6083