No more raw sewage in the ocean: Tofino gets funding for $78M wastewater upgrades

Tofino, BC

The federal and provincial governments have announced a wave of funding to communities across British Columbia to provide upgrades to wastewater treatment facilities, and Tofino is among those.

The District of Tofino will be getting $7.5 million of the $48.6 million being given out by the federal government, which will be going towards Phase 2 of the Secondary Wastewater Treatment and System Upgrade project announced back in 2019.

“Tofitians care deeply about the natural environment and have worked for years to develop a modern, reliable wastewater treatment system to improve water quality in Clayoquot Sound, support Indigenous practices and local economies, and protect human health,” said Josie Osborne, MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim in a release regarding the announcement. Osborne was Tofino’s mayor when the project first received approval.

The project, which got underway late last year, is set to build an entirely new wastewater treatment plant to replace the four pump stations that were in place.

The reasoning behind it? Tofino is the last municipality left on Vancouver Island to pump raw sewage into the Pacific Ocean. Following a federal mandate that all municipalities treat their sewage by 2020, the project was put into place. It was then delayed for an extended period of time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a funding shortage after bids for construction came in short.

Osborne says she is thrilled to see the project coming to fruition.

“This project – the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken in Tofino – was possible because of the vision, collaboration and partnership between the District of Tofino, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, the Province of BC, and Canada. I offer my gratitude and congratulations to everyone involved in this long-awaited achievement.”

By treating the sewage and improving water quality, the marine environment around Tofino and in the Clayoquot Sound will be greatly protected.

“I am proud to be working with all levels of government to support joint infrastructure projects to ensure British Columbians have access to quality drinking water and reliable wastewater systems, while also protecting our rivers, lakes, and oceans. These seven new projects will improve services for B.C. communities and will protect critical infrastructure for years to come,” says Anne Kang, minister of Municipal Affairs for British Columbia.

The District of Tofino was initially given approximately $40 million in grants from the provincial and federal governments for the treatment plant back in 2020. They quickly learned, however, that the $55 million they had first estimated for the cost was far too low. The project’s current cost sits at around $78 million.

Tofino is one of seven municipalities receiving funding from the governments, alongside the Village of Tahsis and the District of Central Saanich, putting nearly half on Vancouver Island. The other four are the Village of McBride, the Town of Golden, the City of Kamloops, and the City of New Westminster. Tofino is receiving the most funding out of all municipalities in this wave.

“Investments in modernizing wastewater infrastructure improves the health and prosperity of our communities and protects our local environment. Our government is proud to invest more than $26.5 million in these wastewater upgrades projects across British Columbia,” says Harjit Sajjan, the minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada. “We will continue to collaborate with our partners to deliver more projects like these that improve wastewater management, increase treatment reliability, and support sustainable community development.”

Funding for all projects is contingent on fulfilling consultations with Indigenous groups in their respective locales.

Tofino’s wastewater treatment plant is expected to be operational by the end of 2024.

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