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Sewage-treatment issues surfacing around Cowichan Bay's floathomes

Cowichan Bay Director Lori Iannidinardo wants the bay’s various floathomes hooked to sewage treatment to keep waste out of the ocean. - Peter W. Rusland
Cowichan Bay Director Lori Iannidinardo wants the bay’s various floathomes hooked to sewage treatment to keep waste out of the ocean.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Thorny subjects of sewage treatment, and other issues surrounding Cowichan Bay's quaint floathomes is being broached by Director Lori Iannidinardo.

She prescribes public meetings — including one in April — to take stock of the bay's floathomes, particularly sewage-unit numbers and which float homes currently pump waste into the drink — or into the system reaching treatment at Tzouhalem Road's lagoons.

"Floathomes aren't even supposed to be there under our (Area D) bylaws," she said.

To clear the floathome fog, the region's electoral area services committee passed a February motion directing staff to start amending the bay's official community plan bylaws to regulate floathomes.

"A certain percentage of floathomes are the character of the bay.

"This process will initiate a conversation with the community about how to accommodate

our floathome residents in a way that respects their needs, the needs of the whole community, and our wider environment," Iannidinardo says in her newsletter.

Meetings with home- and marina owners are a priority in patiently tackling not only sewage issues, but parking plus fire- and emergency-service accesses affecting floathomes.

Iannidinardo also aims to meet with Transport Canada and Vancouver Island Health Authority agents concerning floathomes, and other pump-out questions.

"I found out a while back we had roughly 20 floathomes in the bay, and just one is hooked to sewer going to the Joint Utilities Board lagoons," she said.

But Jim Money, owner of the bay's Pier 66 and 67, said many more floathomes than one have sewage treatment of some type.

"One is legally hooked to sewer, but others are hooked to private systems probably designed by engineers," he said, noting chemical toilets are also in use.

Money realizes Iannidinardo and Cowichan Valley Regional District staff face a legacy of rumours and incorrect data about floathomes concerning who's hooked to sewage pump outs, or private treatment.

"I'm working with Lori to show her exactly what's going on.

"Our first goal is that everyone who can be hooked up, is, and that there's nothing going into the bay.

"We want to be good citizens," said Money, whose Pier 67 owns three sewage units.

Iannidinardo said 10 sewage units are spread among Money and other marina owners.

The question is, how many floathomes can be covered by each unit.

"We wonder if one unit can handle three floathomes," she said. "We have to figure that out based on sewage volume."

Money said two floathomes, or three liveaboard boats, can be accommodated by each sewage unit.

Iannidinardo believed marina owners will likely pay to hook floathomes to legally recognized sewage treatment once it's known which homes are properly disposing of their wastes.

Meanwhile, the bay's various stilt homes are all properly hooked to sewer, she noted of the floathome fracas she inherited as bay director.

"Before my time, marina owners were given 10 sewer units in total. Now we have to sit down and figure out what we'll do and how much those units mean."

Toss in Jan. 1 federal laws ordering pump-out facilities for liveaboards, another issue in Iannidinardo's sewage pipeline.

Money noted some folks are reluctant to discuss touchy sewage-treatment issues submerged for years.

"It's a sore spot and they (CVRD) may not get straight answers."

Iannidinardo understands.

"It's really sensitive for people, and it's also their home, so we have to manage this correctly.

"If we want to eat shellfish from the bay, we have to do everything we can."

Money's also committed to charting a clean, healthy home for all.

"We want to be good citizens," he said.

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