About the Sewer Extension South Project

Wastewater management has been a regular topic for Royston and Union Bay over the years. Since a failed referendum on the south sewer project in 2016, there has been ongoing work to find a wastewater solution that protects the natural environment and provides a cost effective solution for residents. The area has been identified as a priority for a centralized collection and treatment system because of the high density of homes, high water tables, poor soil conditions, ageing onsite treatment systems and anticipated growth in the area.

In early 2020, the Comox Valley Sewage Commission agreed to receive wastewater from the area – opening the door to a collaborative waste management solution for the region. Since then, the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) has been working to pursue a regional concept for sewer that would see wastewater from our growing communities in the south be treated at the sewage treatment plant located on Brent Road in Lazo North (Electoral Area B) and then discharged to the environment by the existing marine outfall at Cape Lazo.

Public Engagement

The project team recently held a webinar and an in-person open house to share its progress on sewer planning for the Royston and Union Bay area. Questions from these sessions were recorded and answers have been added to this web page. To get more informed, you can view and share a video of the webinar or review the poster boards that were on display at the open house.

Webinar RecordingNovember 30, 2021 

Questions and Answers

This is a project of great importance for residents of Royston and Union Bay and we appreciate there are many detailed questions about which households will be impacted, the cost to residents and logistics pertaining to connecting properties to a regional system. While this proposal is very much conceptual, we felt it was important to update the community now and get some initial feedback that will help us to formulate our next communication out to the community and ensure concerns are addressed. The Q&A’s below provide all of the high level information that we are able to share at this point. In the meantime, our project team is busy developing the proposed project scope and we look forward to presenting these details and more to the community in 2022.

Project Timelines

What is the timeline for the project?
The CVRD will be applying for a grant opportunity that specifies construction will need to be completed by 2026 which is a reasonable completion date for a project of this complexity. It may take additional time to decommission septic systems and get properties hooked up to the new infrastructure. Our team is working to finalize project details and we will be bringing more information forward in 2022 about which communities will be included, project phasing and timelines, cost per household and how we will seek approval from the public.

 

Funding and Costs

How would this project be funded?

The cost of constructing the infrastructure would be funded through grants, partner contributions and borrowing (debt). Operation costs for the system would be shared by all those connecting and could be in the form of a tax or user fee (or combination of the two) which has yet to be decided. It is important to note that only those properties connecting to the system will be responsible for the cost to build and operate it. The CVRD’s objective is to find the most cost effective solution by maximizing grant funding opportunities and optimizing partnerships with K’ómoks First Nation, Union Bay Estates and the City of Courtenay. We will also investigate repayment options that may provide flexibility for the community.

What will the cost be to homeowners?
At this time we don’t yet know what the estimated cost for the extension project will be, as it will depend significantly on grant funding support, partner contributions, timing, and approvals. An engineering analysis is underway to develop cost estimates. A clear picture of how much this project will impact each household will be presented to residents early in 2022 prior to seeking public assent.

Will there be options for opting out if a sewer service goes ahead?

Homeowners will be required to connect to the service. In order to ensure cost efficiency, and to meet the environmental/safety goals of the project, opting out will not be an option though there may be options available for payment arrangements. Those details have yet to be confirmed.

Will there be grants available to individual homeowners?
The CVRD plans to apply for a grant to build out the infrastructure through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program Environmental Quality Stream, which is a federal and provincially funded program. We are not knowledgeable of individual grants at this time but we will be mindful of opportunities for individual homeowners.

Impacted Neighbourhoods

What communities are included?
This is a large project that will need to be completed in phases. The project team is working to maximize the number of residents included in the first phase of the project while ensuring costs remain reasonable. We know the most urgent need is in Union Bay and that our partners also have an interest in this area. It is not known yet if Royston or other areas will be included in the first phase of the project or if they will be included in subsequent phases. The project team is currently assessing the boundaries for the project and more detailed maps will be presented during the next phase of engagement.

How many properties could be impacted?
The areas to be serviced by the proposed system include properties in Royston, Union Bay and the neighborhoods between these two communities along with Union Bay Estates and K’ómoks First Nation south lands. It is anticipated that providing sewer service to this entire area would occur in several phases.

Public Approval

Does this project need public approval?

Yes, the Local Government Act requires the CVRD to obtain elector assent to establish a new service or to borrow money to build new infrastructure, even when there is a demonstrated need. For example, the Comox Valley Water Treatment Project required public assent even though provincial regulations required the system to be upgraded to protect public health and a deadline had been provided.

Public assent will be sought on this project in 2022 in order to comply with grant funding timelines. More details on this timing will be available soon. We will be sure to provide the information you need to make an informed decision

What happens if the public approval process is unsuccessful?
Grant funding hinges on public approval. It should be noted that there are no other grant opportunities on the horizon and the provincial focus is likely to shift towards climate change mitigation for the foreseeable future. Should planning not proceed in a timely fashion, the CVRD will be looking to land use planning tools and new regulation to ensure environmental and health risks aren’t made worse. This could include work with the Province and Island Health on enhanced septic regulatory measures, changes to zoning or implementation of other land use management tools.

How will communications take place leading up to the referendum, particularly for individuals that do not participate in digital opportunities?

Prior to electoral assent the CVRD will undertake public meetings as well as online engagement. Residents will be communicated with directly by mail and the CVRD will utilize social media as well as more traditional forms of media as part of legislative requirements. We are very interested to hear from residents about their preferences for communication on this project. Please email us to share your thoughts.

Union Bay Estates

How will Union Bay Estates be impacted?

The CVRD has a Master Development Agreement with Union Bay Estates for the development of those lands. The MDA requires a sewer solution for the proposed development that has expansion capability. Should a connection to the Comox Valley Sewer Service proceed, it would remove the requirement for the developer to construct a standalone treatment plant. Union Bay Estates would instead make a comparable contribution to fund the sewer pipe connecting to the regional system.

We appreciate the dialogue that we’ve had so far with UBE. They see the benefit of this being a long term solution that meets their needs. We will continue working with them to confirm their participation before the grant application is made.

System Design

How will communities on the foreshore link to the pipe?

If the project proceeds, a detailed design phase will determine the specifics of the new system. At this point it is envisioned that communities would have individual collection systems that would pump wastewater into a pressurized main that would run along the highway and link up with the Comox Valley system.

Existing Septic Systems

Will existing septic systems need to be decommissioned and what would that involve?

Yes, existing systems will need to be decommissioned. This would typically involve capping off the plumbing from the structure, and  pumping out the existing tank, breaking it up in place and then backfilling, leaving the infrastructure in the ground. Old infrastructure could be removed but this would be a larger expense.

What about homeowners that have already installed new systems? Is there accommodation that could be made? 
It important to have everyone participate if we are to make a new service successful. We will look at options for people who have just installed a new systems.

Will there be opportunity for accommodation if a septic system needs to be upgraded but it is known that the home will be connected into a new community system?

Under provincial legislation homeowners are legally responsible for ensuring their systems are maintained. If health hazards exist, or are likely to be caused, Island Health has the authority to hold liable those responsible. We would ask residents to work directly with an Authorized Person (AP) and Island Health to determine if there are other options and accommodations that could be made in the interim.

Don’t see an answer to your question? Email us 

What Happens Next?

An extension of sewer service into Royston and Union Bay is in the early stages of assessment. The CVRD is currently:

  • Undertaking further assessment and technical evaluation including further review of potential costs.
  • In discussion with the K’ómoks First Nation and Union Bay Estates.
  • Pursuing grant opportunities.

We understand that this is an important topic for many in the community and there will be no decisions made about moving forward without further communication with residents and property owners. The CVRD will continue to engage the community throughout 2022 as more details become available including costs, impacted neighbourhoods, project timing and public assent.

Staying Informed

Updates will be shared with the community on this webpage and via newsletters. Visit us here or email us to sign up for project updates.