The pipes and pump stations that move wastewater through the Comox Valley are getting an upgrade.

They are used to move wastewater through Courtenay, Comox and the K’ómoks First Nation to the Sewage Treatment Plant. 

The Comox Valley Sewage Commission approved a plan yesterday for the work to begin.

Planning and community engagement work been happening since 2018 to develop a Liquid Waste Management Plan that will eliminate the environmental risk of moving raw sewage through an ‘at-risk’ pipe along the beach at Willemar Bluffs.

The route will include tunneling through large hills and decommissioning all foreshore sewage pipes as soon as possible. 

Key features of the selected option are:

  • A mix of tunneled sections (under Comox and Lazo hills) with traditional ‘cut-and-cover’ trenched installation along Dyke Road and through the Town of Comox. The tunneling will minimize construction impact and operational pressure on the system, in order to reduce costs and risk over the life of the project.
  • Work to be undertaken as one phase, to reduce operational risk by decommissioning aging infrastructure as soon as possible.

Final alignment will be determined during detailed design and will focus on minimizing costs and impacts on residents and businesses. 

Discussions are underway with the Town of Comox regarding the final route, infrastructure replacement standards and community impacts. 

The Comox Valley Regional District says it will also work with the K’ómoks First Nation to protect archaeologically sensitive areas during construction in an effort to preserve cultural heritage sites, ancestral burial places and artifacts.

The project is expected to cost $73 million with an estimated 80 year service life for the new pipe. 

The cost per household is estimated at $150/per year for 30 years. 

Funding will include approximately $21 million from reserves and $52 million in debt to ensure costs are spread out between current and future taxpayers over the 30 year term. 

Public approval for the borrowing will be sought through the CVRD’s annual Alternative Approval Process taking place in May and June 2021.

“This is a critical decision, and the commission is thankful for the input from everyone who has participated in the consultation process,” said Doug Hillian, Chair of the Comox Valley Sewage Commission. 

“The need to replace the at-risk forcemain along Willemar Bluffs is urgent – and now we have a plan that enables that work to move forward as quickly as possible and in a way that is affordable for taxpayers.”

The CVRD says the decision “was supported by recommendations from staff, technical experts and the public – including the technical and public advisory committees formed to help guide the planning process.” 

The Commission also considered input gathered as part of the public consultation on a shortlist of three options completed in fall 2020. 

A report summarizing that feedback is available here. https://connectcvrd.ca/lwmp

The Commission had already selected preferred treatment and resource recovery options for the system in December 2020. 

The district says choosing the preferred conveyance option “is the last in a series of key decisions for sewer planning for the Comox Valley sewer system. The next step will be to finalize the route alignment and detailed design for the new conveyance system while funding is being secured through the AAP process.”

During this time, the CVRD will continue dialogue with its stakeholders, residents with properties located in potential right-of-ways and homeowners with wells that will be included in a groundwater monitoring program.

You can find  more information on the  project webpage.