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Politics Ignore Science

  Outfall Marine Life

Science-based decisions don’t include sewage plan

Science-based decisions don’t include sewage plan

Times Colonist, Letters, April 20, 2010

It is laudable that, in her support of the NDP’s Climate Change Accountability Act, Victoria MP Denise Savoie has stated that: “It is based on science-based targets, not politically watered-down ones.”

Savoie also supports the stance of the province and the Capital Regional District that Victoria needs a secondary sewage-treatment system.

Their stance, however is politically motivated, not science-based.

A multitude of marine scientists, wastewater engineers, and past and present public health officers confirm that the ocean currents flowing past Victoria are so rich in oxygen and micro-organisms that our sewage is quickly digested into the food chain with no evidence of harm to human health or the environment, a science-based fact that is expected to continue for decades to come.

To maintain her credibility, Savoie needs to apprise herself of the science- based facts as to why Victoria does not need to replace its system of natural sewage treatment.

Then she can defend all Victorians from the CRD’s unnecessary plan to build a secondary sewage-treatment system, a billion-dollar sewage boondoggle that promises to dwarf the FastCat fiasco and rob funds from necessities such as health care and education.

Brian Burchill

2 comments to Science-based decisions don’t include sewage plan

  • Hello Brian,

    Thanks for expressing your concern on this long-standing issue in our region. I regret that I cannot acquiesce to your request in order to get your vote. I noted your comment that the former MP for Victoria, David Anderson had worked against having sewage treatment in our region. A few things have changed, however, since David was MP – one of which is that national secondary treatment standards will soon become law in Canada. So I cannot, as a federal Member of Parliament, counsel to break the law.

    I would be exposing Victoria and the CRD taxpayers to severe fines by the federal Government given the standards have been developed and are now gazetted. I spoke to the Minister of the Environment just last week about this issue and he indicated to me very clearly that federal scientists report that Victoria and Montreal are two of the worst-offending cities in Canada. So it is likely if we don’t take action, we could be subject to penalties. I believe the CRD has received letters to this effect.

    Secondly, I believe it is an important part of my job to get funding from the federal government in order to reduce the costs to Victorians rather than object to decisions taken by locally-elected politicians – especially as infrastructure money may not always be available. Otherwise, we may find ourselves in the situation of being forced to treat without federal funding.

    Thirdly, I would agree that the CRD plan is far from perfect, but it appears better than what we are doing, given emerging facts from up-to-date scientific research on the toxic effects of pharmaceuticals (that so many people ingest) and personal care products containing endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

    If you are interested in receiving any information, I would pleased to share a few of the scientific articles that are driving both the federal and provincial decisions.

    Finally, I would prefer to work to improve our approach to treatment and not subject the region to the financial risks of running afoul of federal and provincial laws.

    I regret that you may have decided not to support me on the basis of this single issue and that your vote is based on the one issue over which we may disagree, but our democracy means that you decide on the person you feel is best qualified to represent you however you may choose. For my part, I must act in integrity with the information I have.


    Denise Savoie, MP, Victoria

  • Dear Ms. Savoie:

    In response to your comment above, I offer the following objections:

    1. It is not good enough to quote the BC Minister of Environment, who in turn quotes nameless federal scientists, to conclude that Victoria and Montreal are the worst offenders with regard to sewage disposal. The receiving environments of the two cities are vastly different, for one thing, and we would need to see figures that demonstrate that Victoria’s current system performance is in violation of the forthcoming federal regulations, now gazetted.

    2. If Victoria is found to be in violation of these forthcoming regulations, the first question to be asked should be, “Is it possible to modify the existing system to meet the new regulations, as opposed to assuming that land-based sewage treatments is the only solution.” Before committing to the billion dollar, high-carbon footprint that will be created by a completely new system, there should be an open scientific debate on the advisability of proceeding, calling in public health officials and marine scientists who are charged with making recommendations. Then the public should vote on the recommendations.

    3. The question of who pays for this new system — the need for which has not been scientifically supported — Federal or Provincial or local funds, is a red herring based on fear mongering. The first thing to do is to establish which treatment would most cost-effectively meet the new federal standards, and THEN pursue a fair and just cost-sharing agreement for whatever level of modification may be needed. If the federal and provincial governments cannot pay their share, then it’s obvious a new system has low priority for them. They can’t BOTH mandate it, and NOT pay for it!

    We obviously should not be rushing headlong into an enormously costly system because of funding fears.

    I too will not support the NDP in future if it caves in to this kind of bullying.

    Let’s put the cart squarely behind the horse where it belongs!

    Yours sincerely,

    Elizabeth Woodworth
    Victoria, BC

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