The federal government announced on Tuesday it will invest $21.96 million into wastewater treatment in Tofino, with the B.C. provincial government contributing $18.3M to the same project.
It is the largest infrastructure investment since the municipality was incorporated in 1932.
The project will construct a new wastewater treatment plant and ultraviolet disinfection for treated effluent to help improve and protect the local marine environment. This will service the District of Tofino, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, and the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
“I really want to mark the fact that this is a pivotal point in the many, many hours, days, months and years of planning to get to this point,” said Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne, expressing her happiness with the funding during the Aug. 27 regular council meeting.
“There has been a phenomenal amount of work that has been done by our CAO, by our managers… our consultants, local citizens and stakeholders that took part and advised us along the way. The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations, who helped us with this process.”
The District of Tofino will contribute $14.96M. The funding from the federal government and the province represents 73.3 per cent of the estimated eligible costs of the new, modern wastewater treatment plant.
The district currently discharges untreated wastewater to Duffin Passage in Clayoquot Sound. In 2015, Tofino committed to meeting federal wastewater effluent guidelines and to developing a modern, reliable wastewater system.
When completed, the wastewater treatment plant will be a very important step in improving water quality in the Clayoquot Sound, protecting public health and conserving the marine environment, states a press release issued by the district.
In particular, it is hoped that once the wastewater treatment plant is operating, the longstanding restrictions on shellfish harvesting near Tofino and Opistsaht will begin to ease.
Saya Masso, Land and resources director for Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations, said Tla-o-qui-aht is very happy to see the region awarded this funding.
“This project falls perfectly in line with Tla-o-qui-aht land use and marine objectives; and it has been a long standing desire to see this project implemented. This project is a critical step to achieving healthier marine areas, and enhancing the economic diversity of the region,” said Masso.
In 2017, with the assistance of a local advisory committee of residents, stakeholders, and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation representatives, Tofino completed a new Liquid Waste Management Plan. This work was followed by the design of a wastewater treatment plant, and improved wastewater collection system and outfall.
In addition to dealing with wastewater from Tofino homes and businesses, the new wastewater system will treat domestic sewage collection from the Tla-o-qui-aht communities of Esowista and Ty-histanis. Treatment of wastewater from Opitsaht and portions of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is also likely.
Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns said the green infrastructure investment is a major boost for the community.
“We need an unspoiled natural environment to support both traditional Indigenous practices and a healthy tourist economy which attracts thousands of visitors to our region every year. This has been accomplished with good planning, the vision of local leaders and federal and provincial governments working together. It is truly a big day for the future of Tofino and our UNESCO Biosphere Region,” said Johns.
The joint federal, provincial and municipal funding came through the Green Infrastructure Stream – Environmental Quality program of the Investing in Canada infrastructure plan and the Small Communities Fund of the New Building Canada Fund.
Better drinking water and wastewater infrastructure improvements are coming to 15 British Columbia communities, including Tofino.
Six projects will help protect the health of residents by improving access to safe and reliable drinking water in small communities, including First Nations communities, in some cases resolving current drinking water advisories and reducing the likelihood of future ones.
Nine projects, like the District of Tofino’s, will support new and upgraded wastewater systems to meet regulatory standards, modernize services and support growing communities.