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B.C. tourism mecca finally poised to stop pumping raw sewage into the ocean

Shovels expected to hit the ground this month on Tofino’s much-delayed $78M sewage treatment facility

Shovels are finally ready to hit the ground on Tofino’s long awaited wastewater treatment plant.

The district has finalized a construction agreement with NAC Construction and construction is expected to begin this month, according to Tofino mayor Dan Law.

“This is a moment that we can all celebrate. It’s been a long time coming and to actually get started and see the construction go ahead and the project move forward is a fantastic accomplishment,” Law told the Westerly News. “Besides the federal mandate and the Clean Water Act, not pumping raw sewage into Clayoquot Sound has been a priority for the community and the past couple councils…It’s just the right thing to do.”

He added district staff, NAC, engineering consultants WSP and the provincial and federal governments “worked really well together” to bring the project’s launch to fruition.

The facility, which carries an expected cost of $78 million including a 10 per cent contingency, has been something of a white whale in Tofino, which is the only municipality left on Vancouver Island that still pumps raw sewage into the ocean.

The district was given a federal mandate to treat its sewage by Jan. 1 2021, but whizzed past that deadline as it attempted to overcome the significant tax burden it would bring to the community of about 2,220.

The provincial and federal governments initially dished out $40 million in grants to help Tofino meet its mandate, but frustrations mounted in 2020 when the district learned its $55 million cost estimate to build the facility was about $29 million too low as construction bids came in at around an $84 million average.

Tofino had originally committed to put $14 million of taxpayer funds towards the project, but upped that figure to $16 million before standing pat and asking the provincial and federal governments for more financial help.

“We really capped it at that and we looked to both the provincial and federal governments to help us accomplish the rest and the rest will be coming from grants and contributions,” Law said.

The district also butted heads with local accommodation providers on using annual Municipal and Regional District Tax dollars to fund the facility before agreeing to a compromise earlier this year with the introduction of a 1 per cent sustainability fee that’s projected to bring about $400,000 to Tofino each year to put towards paying off the $16 million loan.

The facility is expected to be operational in 2024.

“This is just a wonderful thing. It’s certainly taken a long time, but here we are,” Law said.

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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