Hooking up with Skidegate

  • Jun. 1, 2012 7:00 p.m.

Queen Charlotte’s sewage may soon be heading Skidegate way. Right now, Queen Charlotte pumps untreated sewage into Bearskin Bay, but three years ago, Environment Canada told the village it had to stop the practice, as it was harmful to fish. In 2010, Queen Charlotte studied and identified five options, and in the end decided it likes the option of cooperating with Skidegate, which has a state-of-the art treatment facility less than half a dozen years old.QC councillor Leslie Johnson told council Tuesday evening (May 22) that Skidegate’s treatment plant is a better option than building a plant in Bearskin Bay, as its effluent exit is in Hecate Strait, in deeper water. Right now, Charlotte’s untreated sewage is discharged into the Skidegate Inlet from a pipe about 12 metres below the surface, while Skidegate’s treated effluent is pumped into Hecate Strait from a pipe about 50 metres underwater.Queen Charlotte and Skidegate have agreed to look into the possibility of hooking up, and the Skidegate Band Council recently agreed to work with Queen Charlotte to check out the project.Pumping sewage to Skidegate would be the most expensive option for Queen Charlotte, with the project’s anticipated cost being slightly above $10-million.Charlotte Chief Administrative Officer Bill Beamish told the Observer all the money would have to come from a grant or grants.”It can’t come from us, we don’t have that kind of funds,” Mr. Beamish said.He also noted that the federal government has a program that could completely fund the project, and Queen Charlotte is looking ahead to be ready to submit a detailed application this fall, or more likely next spring. At the moment, the plan needs to be proven to be technically feasible as well as affordable. Once that’s done, the two communities would enter into an agreement and Queen Charlotte would apply for funding to make the connection. On June 4, Queen Charlotte will likely apply for a $26,000 study to look into the project, with $10,000 coming from the province and $16,000 from the village’s federal gas tax revenues, which are about $88,000 a year.Mr. Beamish said all going well, Queen Charlotte has a good chance of getting the money.”We being a small community with no treatment at all, (it) would be a high priority,” he said. Mr. Beamish also said the new study should position the village well for the next round of funding. “We are here, we are ready, we know what our numbers are, send us a cheque,” he said.The issue arose in August 2009 when a federal environment office threatened the village with fines of up to $200,000 per day and jail time for village officials if nothing was done.Queen Charlotte has been reporting to that agency every six months since then, and has found it more cooperative than it originally sounded.