Project Update (February 2018):
The sewage commission has approved a plan to review alternatives for re-routing the at-risk Balmoral Beach (Willemar Bluffs) forcemain as part of the development of a Liquid Waste Management Plan (LWMP). For more information please read the staff report about the proposed LWMP process. Staff are now planning next steps and details will be posted here as they are available.
About the Comox No. 2 Pump Station Project
Upgrades to the Comox Valley sewer system are critical to the long-term viability of the Comox Valley sewer system and to remove an environmental risk posed by aging pipes along Willemar Bluffs.
A new pump station on Beech Street has been proposed, however, progress on this site is now on hold as alternative solutions are reviewed
Why is the CVRD considering the Comox No. 2 Pump Station?
There are two key reasons why the Comox No. 2 pump station has been proposed:
- The existing forcemain installed along the Willemar bluff has deteriorated due to coastal wave action and it now poses an environmental risk. Over the past 10 years, temporary measures have been put into place to protect the forcemain, however a permanent solution is required.
- Continued growth in the Comox Valley has led to the need for additional capacity that will supplement the two pump stations already in operation on the Comox Valley sewer system. To meet the needs of increasing demand, a new pump station was identified as a priority in the sewer master plan drafted in 2005.
As a result, the project has also been identified as important to the Comox Valley sewage service. This is an important project for the Comox Valley as a whole.
What’s Happening Now?
The Comox Valley Regional District’s Sewage Commission has agreed to put the proposed Comox No. 2 pump station on hold until analysis of alternative options for re-routing an aging forcemain from Balmoral Beach can be completed.
To continue moving forward with this critical project, further investigation is required to ensure the best planning decisions are made.
During the spring/summer of 2017, three red flags were under investigation. These included:
- The results of an analysis into the condition of the forcemain, along the foreshore, including between Courtenay and Jane Place and along Willemar Bluffs
- Update of total project costs
- Further hydrological studies to better understand any potential risks to the quality or quantity of groundwater in the area
At the October 2017 meeting the Sewage Commission were provided with these important updates:
- Cost estimates for a pump station on Beech Street are significantly (70 per cent) higher than budgeted, due to challenges such as a difficult tie-in at the beach below Beech Street, extra measures to protect against possible risks, and the constraints of the small property size.
- The forcemain along Balmoral Beach (Willemar Bluffs) is in better condition than expected, and – thanks also to some repair work on protective structures done this winter – the risk of failure has been reassessed as lower than previously understood.
- There may be other options which are more cost effective over the lifecycle of the infrastructure. Early review by the project’s engineer consultants suggest other routes – though presenting their own challenges – could potentially be a better financial decision.
Because of these results, progress on the Comox No. 2 Pump Station proposed for Beech Street has been paused while alternative options are investigated.
Informing the Community
Work to inform residents about the project has been ongoing. This included a public open house in November 2017 (click here to view *poster boards), a public open house in June 2016 and design workshops held in March, April and May 2017 that provided an opportunity for area residents to engage with the CVRD on the design and aesthetics of the proposed pump station.
*Please note: Following feedback at the November 9, 2017 open house, the "Alternative Alignments" board has been amended for clarity. Please contact the project team to request a copy of the original if required.
At their October 2017 meeting, the Comox Valley Regional District sewage commission voted in favour of putting the Comox No. 2 Pump Station project on hold while alternative options are investigated.
The decision was made due to the results of studies/review conducted as part of the indicative design stage of the project, which found:
- The estimated cost for a Beech Street pump station is significantly higher than budgeted,
- There may be another option that is more cost effective over the infrastructure’s full lifespan, and
- The forcemain along Balmoral Beach (Willemar Bluffs) has a lower risk of failure than anticipated.
The assessment of alternative options will be undertaken in 2018, with results expected in early 2019. Recommendations will be brought to the sewage commission then. The public will be informed where possible as the process moves forward.
The existing forcemain along Willemar Bluff poses an environmental risk to the community because of its exposure to coastal wave action. Over the past 10 years, the CVRD actively studied potential solutions, and put into place temporary measures to protect the forcemain; however, a permanent solution is required. This has been identified as, and still is, a priority project.
Initial review of the sewer service overall and the options to reroute the at-risk portion of forcemain, recommended that a new pump station in the Croteau Beach neighbourhood be constructed to allow for a direct tie from the forcemain at the shore to the wastewater treatment plant.
The CVRD retained Heuristic Consulting Associates to evaluate properties within the recommended area. The consultants used industry-accepted practices and methodology that considered technical, environmental, neighbourhood and financial factors to identify, analyze and then rank the properties that best addressed those factors.
The parcel, legally described as Lot A, District Lot 110, Comox District, Plan VIP82713, was the highest-ranked parcel in the evaluation and was purchased as the future site for the Beech Street Pump Station.
The Beech Street property is not off the table at this point. However, the results of early studies suggest further review of alternative options could lead to a more cost-effective solution. Additional investigative work on groundwater in the area will be undertaken in 2018, in the event that the alternatives assessment identifies Comox No. 2 as the best option.
The condition of existing pipes was assessed as part of the most recent project stage. This survey showed that the pipe along Balmoral Beach (Willemar Bluffs) is in better-than-expected condition and has a lower risk of failure in the short term than last understood.
While it’s clear the pipe needs to be rerouted, this provides the CVRD more time to further assess alternative options. In the meantime, the protective gabion baskets have been repaired, the depth of cover of the forcemain is being monitored, and a spill response plan has been developed to ensure the CVRD is prepared to respond quickly and effectively in the case of a break.
While the preliminary review conducted as part of the indicative design stage looked at four potential options, the next stage of assessment will consider these and others in further detail. The CVRD will work with municipalities and other stakeholders to identify which options warrant further review. The proposed Comox No. 2 Pump Station on Beech Street will be one option assessed.
The initial budget for this project was estimated at $12 million – however, that estimate has been revised and is now suggested to reach $22M (including $4 million in required upgrades to existing pump stations). The significant increase is due to challenges such as a difficult tie-in at the beach below Beech Street, extra measures to protect against possible risks and constraints of the small property size. While alternative options to the Comox No. 2 Pump Station project may end up costing more up front, this review will focus on selecting the most cost-effective solution over the infrastructure’s full lifecycle.
Funding for the re-routing project comes from the Comox Valley sewerage function. Details about funding models will be developed once a plan forward is determined and a final cost is assessed.
The Comox Valley water pollution control centre (wastewater treatment plant) opened in 1984 and provides wastewater service to the City of Courtenay, Town of Comox and the Canadian Forces Base (CFB) in Comox. Wastewater from the city and town is transmitted to the treatment plant through a large diameter forcemain that follows the shoreline from the Courtenay River estuary to Goose Spit, past the Willemar Bluff and then on to the wastewater treatment plant.
In 2002 the CVRD discovered that beach erosion along the steep, sandy coastal Willemar Bluff had exposed significant portions of the forcemain – putting the integrity of this section at risk. In 2005 the CVRD completed study work recommending that a new inland forcemain alignment be constructed to by-pass Willemar Bluff. A new pump station near the intersection of Croteau Road and Docliddle Road was recommended to facilitate that new route.