This all started because I got pissed off. Pissed off that elected officials and CVRD staff were getting attacked in the local media over the proposed Comox No. 2 Pump Station, and especially as most of the “attacks” were overblown or down right false. So, I wrote a letter to the editor: http://www.comoxvalleyrecord.com/opinion/professional-engineer-speaks-out-in-favour-of-comox-pump-station/

Some guy named George responded: http://www.comoxvalleyrecord.com/opinion/area-b-resident-takes-engineer-to-task-for-letter-regarding-comox-pump-station/

I wrote a response to George, and the CV Record won’t publish it. So – here it is – setting the record straight (pun intended):

Dear editor,

I wish to express my gratitude to Mr. George Le Masurier. His comparison of me to Mr. Donald Trump is sure to attract even more attention to this issue (and hopefully this letter), which can only serve to provide valid and relevant information to even more members of the public! After all, for those of us who are “…willing to go over the top – of destroying democracy itself.”, the more people who are informed of all of the facts of a matter through an expression of free speech, the better!

Unfortunately for Mr. Le Masurier, there are several statements in his letter that he presents as fact that are false. To start, the other options mentioned in the beginning of the letter have all been ruled out. The 2011 Sewerage Master Plan Update study, available at the CVRD website, goes into many alternatives in detail. The final conclusion for this report, which confirmed an earlier 2005 report looking at the Wilemar Bluff forcemain, is that a new pump station in the Docliddle / Croteau Road area will be required, and is the best option when analyzed from all aspects. While this may take some anger away from certain parties, the driving forces behind the selected location are gravity, elevation, and geography. For those reading this online – here is a link to the sewerage master plan update: http://www.comoxvalleyrd.ca/EN/main/community/regional-strategies/regional-sewer-strategy.html

The statement relating to the forcemain assessment that follows in the letter does not present the facts on how that work will be conducted. The first thing to note is that the forcemains that will be assessed are all buried. Therefore, they cannot “…only examine the pipeline exterior for existing leaks.”, as Mr. Le Masurier states in his letter. The firm that has been awarded that contract specializes in testing of this type of pipe, and will be using robots with several types of sensors that will travel through the pipes (yes – inside them) and assess the structural integrity of the existing forcemains. Those interested in more details of this technology can go to the Pure Technologies Ltd. website to see the equipment and techniques used to assess sanitary forcemains. Link here: https://www.puretechltd.com/markets/municipal/sewer-force-mains

The hydro-geological report referenced in my letter is a report dated February 11, 2016, by G.W. Solutions Inc., and it includes the Beech Street site. The study in question is available to all on the CVRD website in the “Initiatives” section, under the Comox No. 2 Pump Station page, in the “Reports, Studies and Minutes” tab. This report clearly states the risk to the ground water in the area of the proposed pump station, to be located at 98 Beech Street (option 2 in the report). I invite all to review the report in question. The risks from a pump station at the Beech Street location are very clearly described on page 21 of the report. This is the “moderate” risk from rupture of the forcemain to which my letter refers. Link here: http://www.comoxvalleyrd.ca/assets/Department/Documents/Hydrogeological%20Assessment%20of%20Comox%20Number%202%20Pump%20Station.pdf

In response to Mr. Le Masurier’s reference to the pump station in Richmond, Ontario, this is not a very comparable situation. That pump station is overflowing in times of high rainfall as the sewage collection system feeding that pump station has infiltration issues, and the pumps were not designed to convey that amount of water. In other words, when it rains heavily enough, rain gets into the sewage system and overwhelms that pump station, and it has an overflow bypass to an adjacent river. The proposed Comox No. 2 pump station will be designed to handle the measured infiltration of rainwater into the existing sewage collection system, and as such the chances of this type of overflow occurring are miniscule. I am not saying impossible as there is no way to reduce all risk in any project, but this is a case where all conceivable risk will be removed.

As to Mr. Le Masurier’s statement that, unless proven in a court of law it is not possible to say that all legislative processes and procedures have been followed, I again direct those who want the facts to the CVRD’s website. On the page for this project, one can find the BC Municipal Ombudsman’s report that states the following: “Based on the above, it appeared that the CVRD followed a reasonable process in selecting Beech Street as the site for the new Comox No. 2 Pump Station. On this basis, we found that no further investigation was necessary and closed our file.” Link here: http://www.comoxvalleyrd.ca/assets/Department/Documents/20170206_Chalke_Ombudsperson_InvestigationOutcome.pdf

Finally, as to any “direct financial interest” that I may gain from writing letters on the subject of the Comox No. 2 Pump Station, the contract to provide the engineering services for this project was awarded to OPUS International in January of this year. I also do not recall ever responding to a request for proposals where there are points awarded for the number or quality of letters to the editor written on the project being bid. Furthermore, if my working for the CVRD means I am biased and therefore cannot be trusted, who can we trust? If one review’s the website for the Comox No. 2 Pump Station, the following firms have all worked on this project: AECOM, McElhanney, Associated Engineering, Northwest Hydraulics, GW Solutions, and CH2MHill. Essentially every major civil consulting firm in Western Canada with the exception of Kerr Wood Leidal (who did the Regional Water Supply Strategy) and OPUS (who are the engineers for this project now). It must all be a big conspiracy. Engineers ignoring standards and science to do only what their clients want, even if it violates their code of ethics. No, wait, that does sound pretty unlikely, doesn’t it?

I am duty bound to only “Provide an opinion on a professional subject only when it is founded upon adequate knowledge and honest conviction.” (yes George, I can also quote the APEGBC Code of Ethics). This is what I have done in this letter and the original. In fact, the majority of the information provided is not my opinion at all – I am simply summarizing and reporting the work of other professionals.

Andrew