Victoria City Council has started discussions on the arrangement and possible funding of sewer pipe replacement on private properties – possibly on the order of tens of thousands of dollars per property – to mitigate excess sewage from the sewer system after heavy rain events.
The mixing of rainwater and sewage in Capital Regional District and City pipes, an event known as inflow and infiltration, occurs when water seeps through cracks in clay sewer pipes installed 100 years ago or when rain drains are improperly connected. As a result, the city’s sewer system can exceed its total capacity, creating backflows and creating public health and environmental problems, according to a report from the Department of Engineering and Public Works presented to the council at its November 25 session.
“A good time to start this conversation is now against the backdrop of extreme weather events and a changing climate,” Mayor Lisa Helps said at the meeting.
The first atmospheric river to flow through BC on November 15 recorded 72 millimeters of rain in some parts of the city. “If we invest now, we can save in the future,” said Helps.
The CRD’s core liquid waste management plan also obliges Victoria and other participating municipalities to reduce their maximum daily wet weather runoff to less than four times the dry weather average by 2031 – a requirement that requires improved inflow and infiltration.
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The 14,500 pipes branching off the main lines to private buildings, called side pipes, make up 45 percent of Victoria’s sewer system. Maintaining these 12,450 residential and 1,450 commercial pipes is the responsibility of property owners, who often neglect the burden, said Paul Jas, assistant director of engineering.
Making property sales conditional on side pipes being inspected – and upgraded if necessary – is one possible solution that has been offered, Jas told the city council. The report also suggested that a side pipe inspection would require an installation or building permit valued at $ 25,000 or more.
“It’s not cheap work,” said Nina Sultic-Bata, manager of the underground utilities. “We’re talking about ten to ten thousand dollars (per project)” depending on the age, length and damage of the pipes, as well as obstacles such as trees or lawns. She said more work needs to be done to determine which service lines need to be replaced rather than digging up all of the city’s infrastructure.
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“Without giving the average homeowner a plan to do it … it will take some grief and shock recovery time for this (decision),” Coun said. Stephan Andreas. “I would like to see what we as a city can do to cut these costs, ease the shock and educate us. I think to myself, ‘Can I afford this in the next two years?’ ”He asked.
Equity considerations should be used in funding the pipe replacement project, Coun. said Ben Isitt.
“Is urban funding for our wealthiest residents (for the exchange of pipes), who are forty percent fortunate enough to have land registered in their names, a reasonable and equitable distribution of municipal resources?” He asked. “I’m not sure if that’s so, given someone sitting in that lucky 40 percent.”
The report suggested mandating pipe regulations for phase three of the program but not specifying the date, but it could be rolled out by 2025, Jas said. Isitt requested that the process be expedited, but no one at the table supported the request. The availability of contractors to carry out the work was also a factor in the schedule, according to the report.
The Council has received the report for information and the staff will provide an update at a later date.
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BC Floodcity CouncilCRD SewageWastewater Treatment