Comment: Storm drains are a public health concern
Times Colonist, January 16, 2014, by Dr. Shaun Peck, CRD Medical Health Officer, 1989-1995
Re: “Storm sewers carry pollution,” editorial, Jan. 19.
The editorial clearly identifies the public health concern for the many rainwater drains around the coastline of Greater Victoria.
These drains that discharge into the sea close to the beaches carry contaminants — including sewage from cross-connections, animal waste from roadsides and chemicals (such as petroleum residues from vehicles). The Capital Regional District identified 38 instances of high-rated contaminated drains in 2012 based on the finding of high levels of fecal coliform indicator bacteria.
In addition to the normal rainwater runoff, there are also the designed overflows that occur a few times a year after heavy rainfall, when the unscreened sewage is discharged close to the shoreline from such outfalls as McMicking Point. There is a high potential for human exposure to these drains and overflows and therefore a public health risk of waterborne illness.
This is in complete contrast to Clover and Macaulay points, where the screened sewage is discharged into the marine environment via two deep-sea outfalls that are more than one kilometre from the shore and have 200-metre-long diffusers at the end of them. The outfalls are 60 metres below the ocean surface. By this means, the sewage is treated naturally by the marine environment. A comprehensive study by the CRD concluded that there is no measurable public health risk from the exposure to the sewage plume.
The Capital Regional District’s Seaterra program plans to construct land-based sewage treatment plants at a (preliminary) cost estimate of $783 million. The decision to go ahead with the plan is supported by the political decisions of three levels of government: municipal (regional), provincial and federal.
The credible judgment of marine scientists, public health officials and engineers that the present discharge of the screened effluent into a unique marine receiving environment, through the two deep-sea outfalls, is highly effective in treating the effluent, has largely been ignored.
No credible scientist has presented evidence to counter the judgment of the University of Victoria marine scientists.
The present practice is described as “noxious.” This perception may be understandable. The designed outfalls were based on best engineering practice and have been shown to be highly effective by the comprehensive monitoring. Therefore it seems it is this perception that has driven the demand for land-based sewage treatment plants.
What is now being understood is that land-based sewage treatment plants for Victoria will create more of an environmental issue (when the marine, land and global environments are included) than exists at present.
How will the sludge created by the plants be disposed of? On the land, in the landfill or burned (using much energy)? What will be in the sludge?
There is a great deal of scientific uncertainty about how much of the chemicals of concern and even microplastics will be in the sludge or whether they will be discharged in the residual water through a new outfall at McLoughlin Point. The remaining diluted sewage water after treatment still has to be disposed.
There are calls for more complex treatment than the planned secondary treatment to enable reclamation of water. This does not make sense when you consider the abundance of water available at a relatively low cost from the CRD’s Integrated Water Services.
The regulators are requiring the land-based sewage treatment plants to meet total suspended solids and carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand levels. This is being achieved within 100 metres of the present deep-sea outfalls. It can also be achieved for the estimated $783 million in the land-based sewage treatment plants.
With all the uncertainties in the plans at this time, the CRD directors could have the wisdom and courage to challenge the federal regulations. Given Victoria’s unique marine receiving environment, will they seek an exemption to the federal wastewater systems effluent regulations? They would have strong support from marine scientists and public health officials that the present practice of disposing of our screened sewage is the best solution for Greater Victoria.
The present practice is the best solution from an environmental and ecological perspective.
From a public health perspective, fixing the stormwater drains that contaminate the shoreline is a much greater priority than building land-based sewage treatment plants that will have adverse effects on the land and global environment and where there are uncertain benefits for dealing with chemicals of concern.
Dr. Shaun Peck was the medical health officer for the Capital Regional District from 1989 to 1995.
© Copyright Times Colonist
See editorial comment at: http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/op-ed/comment-storm-drains-are-a-public-health-concern-1.801382#sthash.DxRdr1jU.dpuf
OPEN LETTER TO THE CITIZENS OF VICTORIA, OCT. 23, 2013
YOU ARE BEING MISLED ABOUT SEWAGE TREATMENT
The October 3rd media release(1) by Georgia Strait Alliance (GSA), TBuck Suzuki Foundation (TSF), and David Suzuki Foundation (DSF) presented misinformation suggesting that Victoria’s current system of natural marine treatment needs to be replaced.
In a subsequent October 4th CHEK TV news-cast(2), retired UVic microbiologist Dr. Ed Ishiguro presented informal test results that were neither scientifically peer-reviewed nor published.On the same news-cast, CRD director Judy Brownoff cited his tests to support her promotion of the CRD’s sewage plan.
ARESST offers the following documented clarifications:
- Dr. Ishiguro, GSA, TSF, and DSF compared(3) fecal coliforms in local marine sediments to fecal coliform water standards (from Health Canada,(4) US EPA, and WHO).
- They were negligent to apply water quality standards to evaluate sediments.Their claims of contamination and threat to human health are therefore unfounded.
- Their claim that human fecal coliforms traveled 2-10 km is absurd. The marine environment is hostile to coliforms from the human gut.(5) A peer-reviewed analysis of 1700 samples found no evidence beyond 400 metres of fecal coliforms from Victoria’s outfalls(6).
- Fecal coliforms from plants and animals exist throughout the marine environment.(7) Their presence in sediments off William Head or Trial Island is no more related to Victoria’s outfalls than sediment coliforms off Tofino or Alaska.
At an October 9th sewage meeting(8), in response to a query from Director Brownoff, CRD science staff reported no problems with fecal coliforms – thus contradicting Ishiguro, GSA, TSF, DSF, and herself.
The CRD offers many scientific studies online(9) confirming that Victoria’s current method of marine treatment is essentially as effective as secondary treatment. Victoria’s system already meets the objective of the new Federal regulation(10) because there is no evidence of a threat to fish, fish habitat or human health due to consumption of fish from the waters around Victoria.
Citizens should be outraged that the majority of CRD Directors voted NOT to invite experts(11) to explain all this evidence to the sewage committee.
Citizens should be equally outraged that our elected representatives are not using this abundance of scientific evidence to make the case to Ottawa that it is senseless to continue to force Victoria to build a costly and unnecessary land-based treatment system.
(1)Media Release. October 3, 2013. “New tests show vast contamination – Get building Victoria’s Sewage Treatment System now.”
(2)October 4, 2013. CHEK Sewage Contamination.
(3) Media Release. October 3, 2013. “New tests show vast contamination – Get building Victoria’s Sewage Treatment System now.“ and October 4, 2013. CHEK Sewage Contamination.
The comparison is also implied in the undated table from Dr. Ishiguro below, presented on UVic letterhead.
(5) i) Merv D. Palmer (2000) “Analyses of Sediment Bacteria Monitoring Data from Two Deep Ocean Raw Wastewater Outfalls, Victoria, BC,” Canadian Water Resources Journal, 25:1, 1-18,DOI: 10.4296/cwrj2501001.ii) “One concern of using the coliforms to assess water quality is that they rapidly die off…upon entering into marine waters.” John H. Paul, ed., “Marine Microbiology,” Academic Press, 2001, p. 544.
(6) i) Merv D. Palmer (2000) “Analyses of Sediment Bacteria Monitoring Data from Two Deep Ocean Raw Wastewater Outfalls, Victoria, BC,” Canadian Water Resources Journal, 25:1, 1-18,DOI: 10.4296/cwrj2501001.ii) “Also cautionary is the persistence of indicator organisms in sediments, which leads to elevation of their densities and a false indication of recent pollution in the water column after events such as rain storms, construction, or recreational use.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1151827/
(7)“Coliforms are ubiquitous…” See: “Microbes and Urban Watersheds,” Watershed Protection Techniques,” USA EPA, Vol 3, No. 1, 544-565, 1996, p. 69.
(8)This meeting was videotaped. Please contact ARESST Chair Brian Burchill (firstname.lastname@example.org) for further information.
(9)The CRD Annual Reports (2001-2011) monitoring Macaulay and Clover Points are at: http://www.crd.bc.ca/wastewater/sourcecontrol/goals.htm. The CRD Annual Reports (2003-2009) monitoring the source control program are at: http://www.crd.bc.ca/wastewater/sourcecontrol/goals.htm
(10)http://www.gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2012/2012-07-18/html/sor-dors139-eng.html See under Objectives, under Regulatory Analysis Impact Statement
NOW ONLINE: St. Ann’s Town Hall Meeting w/ David Anderson:
Learn about the Wastewater Issue: What do we really want to fix?
These videos describe how politicians pander to our “yuck” reaction. By ignoring science, their plan to squander over $1 Billion on a BAD PLAN that will do nothing for the environment.
Guernsey Does Not Need to Treat Sewage Fully
BBC News, 16 December 2011
The current method of pumping sewage out to sea was not found to impact on the marine environment.xxRead More…
Revenues from dried sewage sludge will simply not materialize
by Dr. Shaun Peck
On November 10th the CRD was informed by its consultants that sewage treatment plants create a noxious, odourous concentrated sludge that is considered a dangerous material and is a Public Health risk to sewage plant workers. (This I completely agree with). Therefore the CRD needs to put in extra treatment to treat something it did not need to create in the first place. The consultants are therefore recommending thermophilic anaerobic digesters to produce pathogen free biosolids. This will require a great deal of energy.xRead More…
Wastewater Treatment: is it worth the $ 1.43 Billion price tag?
Rob McDermot, PEng, Letter to 4th Dimension, Newsletter, of Victoria Branch Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC, October 2010
The concept of natural sewage treatment has been criticized in the media, but in fact waste treatment is well recognized as a useful ecosystem service contributing to human well-being (Costanza et al., 1997; Boyd and Banzhaf, 2007). The focus of environmental protection is changing to preserving such ecosystem services to the benefit of both human beings and the natural environment (e.g., USEPA, 2008).
It makes no sense to replace a natural ecosystem service with a human creation that is energy inefficient and has other harmful environmental consequences. Read More…
Sewage project damage will be irreversible
Ted Dew-Jones, letter to Victoria News, October 22
University of Victoria oceanography professor Jack Littlepage, who wrote one chapter of my book Victoria’s Sewage Circus, points out that “we should be promoting our system as one of the most efficient and environmentally sound systems in North America.” Read More…
Advocacy group seeks answers to Greater Victoria sewage questions
As ARESST passes its one-year anniversary, the activist group opposed to secondary sewage treatment continues to questions the changing plans of the Capital Regional District.
“We’re questioning what they’re going to do with it [sludge],” said Shaun Peck, former medical health officer for the B.C. Health Ministry and a board member at large for ARESST. “Are they going to turn it into energy on site? Are they going to send it to cement kilns in Vancouver by barge? They’re talking about all these things.” Read More…
What Authorities on Victoria’s Sewage Have to Say (click to view)
|Dr. Keith Martin, MP||Dr. Chris Garett||Dr. Shaun Peck, MD|
CFAX polls (23-Apr-08 and 13-Mar-10) have shown that Victorians are strongly divided on the sewage treatment issue. We believe the public involvement process has been biased and carefully managed to conceal decisions that had already been made; decisions to fund an incredibly costly sewage treatment plan that is not going to do what the CRD would have us think it will do:
- It will do nothing to improve the health of our ocean environment
- It will do little to prevent trace amounts of chemicals and pharmaceuticals from entering the ocean
- It will not result in the removal of the Macaulay and Clover Point outfalls
- It will not change shellfish closures in waters off Victoria
- It will do nothing to address the more serious storm water contamination
What it will do:
- It will generate a concentrated sludge with expensive and complex disposal problems
- It will close the door to resource recovery from sewage
- It will increase greenhouse gas production
- It will discourage new developments from adopting green technologies, such as Dockside Green
- It will discourage the adoption of new technologies to deal with trace chemicals and pharmaceuticals
- It will siphon away $1 Billion from Education, Health Care, Social Services, Urban Renewal…
- We will be paying for this system through reduced services, higher taxes and rents ..for generations
We invite citizens of the CRD to join us in urging the CRD and BC governments to choose the option the majority of people want: to stop the project. Join ARESST and get involved!