Brock Dupont (right), who is in charge of sales and marketing at the new North Shore Estates in Lake Cowichan, and Aaron Hamilton, the Ts’uubaa-asatx First Nation’s operations manager, stand in front of a new housing project’s sign on North Shore Road. (Robert Barron/Gazette)

Brock Dupont (right), who is in charge of sales and marketing at the new North Shore Estates in Lake Cowichan, and Aaron Hamilton, the Ts’uubaa-asatx First Nation’s operations manager, stand in front of a new housing project’s sign on North Shore Road. (Robert Barron/Gazette)

Expert: Repaired pipes could end Lake Cowichan sewer connection moratorium

Ts’uubaa-asatx First Nation’s development plan needs sewers

The Ts’uubaa-asatx First Nation’s plan to build a 61-unit development and connect to the Town of Lake Cowichan’s sewer system was bolstered by an expert’s report citing room within the existing system if some inflow and infiltration (I&I) issues could be fixed.

The Town of Lake Cowichan currently has a moratorium on new sewer system connections but Aaron Hamilton, operations manager for Ts’uubaa-asatx First Nation hopes the band’s willingness to hire Engineer Steve Underwood of True Consulting shows proof of good will, reconciliation and a positive working relationship between the two local governments.

“We’ve had a partnership with the town over all these years and we value it so we thought we’d be solution based as opposed to just coming and going back and forth with this. In Steve’s report I think you can see that by allowing the changes to happen, it’s very doable…and we can utilize the resources we have already,” Hamilton said. “This is a very important study that we commissioned to look at some of the sewage capacity issues that the town’s been having and we thought we’d take the initiative to have our engineer, that is somewhat of an expert at that in B.C. and in small communities and see what efficiencies they can find by simply improving some of the areas.”

The Ts’uubaa-asatx development initially was to consist of condos and require upwards of 200 sewer connections. The plan has changed and the First Nation is asking for less than half of that, and they believe the system can handle it.

“This type of work that Aaron’s asked us to do for this assignment is our bread and butter,” Underwood said. “Ts’uubaa-asatx is our client but in response to the word from the town that additional connections weren’t going to be permitted, they asked us if we could look into this and the hope was that we would find a silver bullet, a pipe that was undersized, a pump that was undersized and that we could make a simple recommendation for something that could be fixed.

“Ultimately as we dug into this assignment, we discovered that that wasn’t going to be possible, we weren’t just going to find the silver bullet that was an easy repair and we let Ts’uubaa-asatx know that this was going to be a harder assignment and they did ask us to continue because they do want to work together with the town and try and show that we’re working together,” Underwood said.

Underwood noted that while some of it furthers Ts’uubaa-asatx goals, other parts are “just good information for the town to use.”

Underwood explained the town’s sanitary collection system suffers from inflow and infiltration (I&I) — excess water that flows into the sewer pipes from ground water and storm water. There are separated joints, dirt, roots, improperly installed water services, cracked and punctured pipes and leaking manholes.

Despite that, the consultant advised council that projections show Lake Cowichan could still be within its discharge permit in 30 years if it could just address the inflow and infiltration issues. In other words, fix the broken pipes.

“Increasing the number of connections isn’t going to put you out of your permit,” Underwood explained. “You can collect fees from those new connections to pay for upgrades at your lagoons.”

Town council understood the issue better following the presentation.

“You’re preaching to the choir about I&I. We have been discussing it at this table, considerably, in the 20 years that I’ve been on council and we have looked at mitigating some of those,” Coun. Tim McGonigle said, recommending the presentation be sent to staff to review.

Lake Cowichan