Bringing critical wastewater management services to Royston and Union Bay

The proposed Sewer Extension South Project will move wastewater from homes and businesses in Union Bay and Royston through a new sewer pipe where it will connect to the Comox Valley Sewer Service, creating a regional approach for the treatment of wastewater. This new regional system will also serve Union Bay Estates and K’ómoks First Nation Southlands, for which development and economic growth will be an important part of reconciliation.

In June 2022, it was agreed that planning for this project should be rolled into the Comox Valley Liquid Waste Management Plan (LWMP) to be submitted to the province as an addendum in early 2024. Public Advisory and Technical Advisory Committees have been established to help develop the addendum and community engagement will inform their work. Follow this page to receive the latest news and updates about the project and how you can have your voice heard.

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Darry Monteith

Manager of Liquid Waste Planning

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Key Topics

Key Topics

This project will provide many benefits to impacted residents, including improving operational efficiencies and cost savings. It will also address:

  • Environmental protection: Aging septic systems in Royston and Union Bay are at increased risk of failure and leaking systems threaten human health and the environment in Baynes Sound.
  • Reconciliation with K’ómoks First Nation: The new regional system will include service to the K’ómoks First Nation Treaty Settlement Lands south of Courtenay, where further development is planned. Should the treaty be ratified, development and economic growth of these lands will be an important part of reconciliation.
    The project will also help ensure safe access to shellfish for the K’ómoks First Nation for food, social and ceremonial purposes, and support their aquaculture interests in Baynes Sound.
  • Anticipated growth in the area: The capacity of existing properties to support alternative housing solutions is limited without proper sewer servicing and affordable housing is a key strategic priority for the CVRD Board.

The total project cost for Phase 1A is currently estimated at $67 million. This includes $46.5 million for the regional sewer line and Phase 1A pump stations and $20.5 million for the Phase 1A Royston and Union Bay community collection systems.

Grants and funding ($32.1 million) will cover approximately half of the project costs for Phase 1A. The remaining cost of constructing the infrastructure would be funded through partner contributions ($30.7 million) and borrowing ($4.2 million).

There are two categories of costs for homeowners anticipated for this project:

  • One-time costs which will vary from home-to-home and are the responsibility of the homeowner
  • Ongoing annual costs that will be billed by the province and the CVRD

1. One-time costs for Phase 1A homeowners include:

  • connecting from the house to the new sewer line (ranging from $2,500 to $6,000 depending on the type of property, which will impact the length of pipe and plumbing required)
  • decommissioning a septic system ($1,000-$2,000)
  • installation of LPS equipment for the approximately 30% of homes that will need it ($4,500)

This brings the total one-time cost estimate to $3,500 to $12,500. This estimate is based on current market conditions.

2. Annual costs for Phase 1A homeowners are estimated at $1,750 to $2,150 per household. This equates to $1,200-$1,500 annually for 25 years, plus $550-$650 annually for ongoing operations and maintenance. The cost for borrowing will be billed on the annual provincial property tax bill. The cost for operations and maintenance will appear on the CVRD quarterly utility bill.

These estimates are based on Preliminary Design (Class C) with an expected accuracy of plus or minus 30%. Final cost estimates will be available in 2026/27.

Phase 1B of the proposed project includes additional portions of the Royston area, as well as the Kilmarnock neighbourhood. The timing and estimated costs for Phase 1B are not yet known. The project would not proceed to planning until after the completion of Phase 1A in 2028. The CVRD will be looking for fairness in costs for Phase 1B residents, and Phase 1B residents will benefit from the work completed to connect Phase 1A to a community system.

Only Phase 1A will pay for the project; residents of future phases will not be responsible for costs until their communities are ready to connect. Timelines are not yet set for future phases and these costs will vary given market conditions at that time, so we cannot provide an estimate now. The CVRD will seek out partnerships and grant funding to keep future costs affordable.

Property owners will be responsible for works on their own property, which includes the connection from the house to the sewer line.

Septic tanks will also need to be decommissioned and left in a state where they cannot be used for the future treatment of wastewater. The tank could be physically removed or pumped out and backfilled in place.

Approximately 30% of Phase 1A properties are expected to require a low pressure sewer system (LPS grinder pump); generally those along the waterfront, or where the home is at a lower elevation than the fronting street.

Properties requiring an LPS grinder pump will be identified as part of the detailed design process.

Property owners would be responsible for installation, operation and maintenance costs of the grinder pumps. These pumps will typically last 10-15 years and cost around $4,500 with estimated annual operating costs of $40-$50 for a typical household. At this time, the CVRD does not have plans to offer a deferral or apply grant funding to this program.

Properties with a Type 2 or 3 septic system aged less than 5 years at the time of the required sewer connection (around 2028 for Phase 1A) may apply to delay connection to the community sewer. The deferral period proposed is 5 years or until the property is sold.

You could defer these costs:

  • Sewer operating costs: est. $550 to $650/year
  • Private property connection expenses and septic decommissioning costs: est. $3,500 - $12,500

Property owners may be able to defer property taxes if they qualify for one of two property tax deferment programs:

1. Regular Program:

  • 55 or older during the current year
  • A surviving spouse of any age
  • A person with disabilities

    2. Families with Children Program

    You may qualify for the Families with Children Program if you're a parent, stepparent or financially supporting a child. Requires a minimum of 15% equity in your home.

    You must also meet applicant, property and equity qualifications to be eligible for these programs. To learn more, visit the Province’s property tax deferment page.

    Royston/Union Bay residents can expect additional residential property tax and user rate increases in the coming years – and we want you to be prepared for what’s to come.

    These increases are in response to the needs of these communities and will deliver on foundational community services.

    For more detailed information on expected cost increases, view the backgrounder here.

    The plan for this project involves a phased roll-out, due to its scale and to keep per property costs reasonable. There are three proposed phases planned. See the phasing map to learn where your property fits in the proposed project boundaries.

    • Phase 1A: 460 properties in the historic cores of Royston and Union Bay. To be completed first and will see the $30 million provincial grant applied to the regional sewer pipe and neighbourhood collection systems.
    • Phase 1B: Additional portions of the Royston area as well as the Kilmarnock neighbourhood will be the next phase to be developed. Timing is currently unknown as additional grant funding will be required.
    • Future phases: In the future, smaller, lower density neighbourhoods where servicing is more expensive could be connected into the system. These neighbourhoods include Gartley Point, Spence Road and Garvin Road.
    • K’omoks First Nation Treaty Settlement Lands and Union Bay Estates: Timing of development of these privately owned lands is unknown at this time, however both communities will be responsible to pay for their own collection infrastructure when the time comes to connect to the regional sewer pipe.

    Phase 1A will provide the foundational infrastructure needed for connection of future phases as communities grow, and all future connections will benefit from this work.

    The plan is to install two pump stations in Phase 1A (Union Bay and Royston) and one additional pump station in Phase 1B (Kilmarnock).

    Committees have recommended that a Royston Pump Station be located at the base of Royston Road on the Northwest corner of the Royston Road/Marine Drive intersection. There are ongoing discussions to mitigate the potential impacts of coastal flooding for this pump station. Alternative options under consideration include:

    • Small community kiosk/underground pump station at proposed location, with a regional pump station located near Highway 19A
    • Kiosk at proposed location, with electrical equipment relocated outside of the flood zone up Royston Road
    • Construction of a flood-resilient pump station structure, with critical equipment installed above the flood construction level

    For the Union Bay and Phase 1B Kilmarnock Pump Stations, locations are still undergoing review and consideration and community input will be considered as these decisions are made.

    • K’omoks First Nation: Should treaty be ratified, K’omoks First Nation will invest as a partner in the project to fund the regional sewer pipe. Service of Treaty Settlement Lands will allow for development and growth which will be an important part of reconciliation. K’omoks would finance and build its own local infrastructure when it is ready to connect to the system.
    • Union Bay Estates (UBE): UBE is a key partner on the project and the CVRD is currently working towards finalizing a contribution agreement. Because it will have funded its share of the regional pipe, UBE will be able to connect at any time. But in order to do so it will be required to finance and build its own collection system infrastructure.

    The new forcemain will be sized appropriately to accommodate future flows from K’ómoks First Nation Lands and Union Bay Estates.

    An archaeological impact assessment is being completed for the entire project area. Properties within 200 metres of a waterway or recorded archaeological site are subject to the KFN Cultural Heritage Policy. The CVRD will work with K’ómoks First Nation to provide these property owners with more information about what will be required when they connect to the system.

    Several studies and reports have informed the Sewer Extension South Project, including:

    • Review of Island Health septic system records and permits in the project area, including systems that were installed as far back as 1970. An analysis of this information was presented by Island Health to the Public Advisory Committee in November 2022.
    • A report from the working group chaired by the BC Centre for Disease Control following the 2018 norovirus outbreak. This report concluded that all transmission routes of norovirus into the marine environment originated from human sewage sources and that septic field seepage was among those identified as a plausible explanation for contamination.
    • A 2015 report by Associated Engineering provides a review of published information, including reports on the performance of septic systems in the project area and risks to human health and the environment.
    • A 2009 field sampling program completed by Payne Engineering Geology in the Union Bay and Royston areas identified an overall failure rate of 25% for septic systems, with the highest failure rate at 50% in Union Bay. By comparison, a similar study by the same author of septic systems in the Cape Lazo area found zero failures.

    A regulatory bylaw would help ensure septic systems in the electoral areas are properly operated and maintained in accordance with Sewerage System Regulation requirements. This new service could introduce required maintenance, including mandatory septic inspections in ‘high-risk’ areas and mandatory pump-outs in all areas.

    The Sewer Extension South LWMP addendum includes language supporting a septic mandatory maintenance program for the plan area. There is also support from the Electoral Areas Services Committee for a region-wide septic mandatory maintenance program, which will proceed as an Order in Council request to the province in summer 2024.

    A Liquid Waste Management Plan (LWMP) is a process used by local governments in BC to develop strategies for managing sewer services. This project is undergoing an addendum to the broader Comox Valley Sewer Service plan currently underway.

    Provincial approval of an LWMP gives local government the ability to borrow for projects included in the plan. This means no referendum or Alternative Approval Process (AAP) is required to move the approved plan forward.

    Through the LWMP process and in the final plan, the CVRD must demonstrate the community’s contributions and how public feedback was incorporated. Feedback from community open houses in June 2023 and January 2024 will be included in the addendum report submitted to the province.

    Further, a public and technical advisory committee (PACTAC), consisting of seven representatives from three different communities, was formed to review the process. Read more about the PACTAC and view the minutes or watch recordings of meetings.