THE Lions Gate secondary wastewater treatment plant is still a year from a final design, but debate surrounding the location of the approximately $400million facility ramped up at a District of North Vancouver council workshop Tuesday.
The plant, scheduled for completion by the end of the decade, would use a biological process to remove about 90 per cent of dissolved material from liquid waste.
North Shore councils have appealed to the federal government to share the cost but an arrangement has yet to be reached.
Citing the ravages of Hurricane Sandy as an indicator of the worsening effects of global warming, Coun. Doug MacKay-Dunn questioned the wisdom of the plant's prospective location, which would be at the base of Pemberton Avenue, approximately two kilometres east of the existing plant.
"The whole site could be underwater in 30 years," he said. "My concern is that the so-called 100-year storm is now the 25-year storm."
An imprudent placement of the plant could send the district's investment "down the toilet," according to MacKay-Dunn.
Technical teams have investigated the site for potential risks including earthquakes and flooding, according to Fred Nenninger, project manager for Metro Vancouver.
"We won't build something that's going to wash away," Nenninger said.
MacKay-Dunn received support from Dan Ellis, one of a team of North Vancouver engineers who have been working with Metro Vancouver on the project as a citizen group. Metro Vancouver may be guilty of hubris in trying to engineer the site around its geography, according to Ellis.
"It's not clear to me that one plant at one site, this site, makes sense," he said.
Making a definitive decision on the site also may undercut the public process, according to Ellis. "I'm not sure I perceive the public engagement to be meaningful," he said.
No other sites were seriously considered for purchase, according to Nenninger.
The site earmarked for the plant is the best in the district, according to chief administrative officer David Stuart. "This was one that came available on the market and we moved on it," he said, referring to the former B.C. Rail site. "Nothing else has come up that is better than this site."
The current wastewater treatment plant, located just west of the Lions Gate Bridge, is on leased land that is scheduled to revert back to the Squamish Nation.
The new site's proximity to the existing wastewater treatment plant will make construction simpler than a brand new site, according to Coun. Alan Nixon.
"Ninety per cent of your cost is in the ground and pipe," said district resident and engineer Troy Vassos.
Vassos challenged the district to take the lead in designing the plant instead of reacting to Metro Vancouver's plans. "You need to be more involved . . . in coming up with solutions instead of questions. If you don't, you'll get the plant you deserve, but not the plant the taxpayers deserve," he said.
"We are a little conservative because we're playing with your money," said Coun. Roger Bassam.
The district has examined the possibility of shouldering more of the burden of building the plant, but to no avail, according to Bassam. "The numbers on that one got really ugly in a hurry," he said.
Part of the cost of the new plant should include money for its neighbours, according to engineer John Hunter.
"Should those houses and residents get any compensation? Because I do feel their property will be devalued," he said.
The success of the plant rests on a single issue, according to engineer Peter Thompson.
"Odour," Thompson said. "This is going to be a killer issue. . . . I think there'd be a revolution if you could not control odour."
"Our primary focus is North Shore residents and businesses affected by the project," said Marie Griggs, public involvement manager for Metro Vancouver.
The best wastewater plants give little outward indication of being wastewater plants, according to Coun. Mike Little.
"You would never know there was a wastewater treatment plant in your neighbourhood unless somebody told you," he said, discussing touring recently constructed plants.
Between eight and 10 potential designs for the plant are tentatively scheduled to be unveiled following a public workshop in December.
"That would be the first time you'd see some site layouts," Nenninger said, adding that the plans will also delve into the technology being used.
Metro Vancouver is also slated to confer with 30 First Nations tribal councils and bands with interests in the area, focusing mainly on the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish nations.
The district should not preclude the option of building the plant on the current site, according to Little, who said the decision should be contingent on a financial arrangement with the Squamish Nation.