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Politics Ignore Science

  Outfall Marine Life

Anderson doubts commitment of governments to sewage plan

Anderson doubts commitment of governments to sewage plan

Kim Westad and Rob Shaw, Times Colonist, May 19, 2010

Former MP David Anderson doesn’t think the provincial and federal governments will come up with their two-thirds share of the almost $1 billion needed for a regional sewage-treatment plan.

Anderson said there is nothing in writing or any budget about it.

“There’s no way on God’s green Earth they’ll each give one-third funding,” Anderson said yesterday at a meeting of the Association for Responsible and Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment. The group is opposed to the land-based sewage-treatment system mandated by the provincial government to be in place by 2016.

Although the region’s plan for sewage treatment has already been approved by the Capital Regional District and is now with the province for input, he group still holds regular news conferences to oppose the plan. Its members include several local scientists, doctors and politicians.

Funding for hospitals and schools will likely trump money for sewage treatment, said Anderson, especially for governments in deficit, which could leave local taxpayers with the entire bill.

The province has said it will fund one third, while the federal government has offered to contribute a similar amount if the province does.

Others in the group were critical of a “one-size-fits-all” attitude they say the government has adopted. The group, which says it is not anti-sewage treatment but is opposed to the land-based method planned for the region, says Victoria has a unique environmental situation.

Sewage here goes through a six-millimetre screen before being shot via 100-metre-long pipes into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. There, the group’s scientists say, the turbulent, highly oxygenated water has active organisms that treat liquid waste naturally.

But Environment Minister Barry Penner defended the province’s order to impose sewage treatment on the CRD.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been already spent on scientific studies that show you can’t dump 40 billion litres a year of untreated ewage into the ocean indefinitely and not affect the environment in the long term, said Penner.

3 comments to Anderson doubts commitment of governments to sewage plan

  • Right Alex! I sent email to the reporters on that story with correction. Of course, the irony is that Rob Shaw was the chief sewage reporter for the Times Colonist until he got bored with it ;-)

    My email to Kim and Rob:

    Hey Kim and Rob:

    I think Rob has been away from the “sewage file” for too long!

    “Sewage here goes through a six-millimetre screen before being shot via 100-metre-long pipes into the Strait of Juan de Fuca”

    …and the correct answer from Times Colonist files:

    “The Macaulay Point outfall pipe in Esquimalt travels 1.8 kilometres away from shore and sits 60 metres below the surface. The Clover Point pipe is 1.2 kilometres long, and 65 metres deep.

    Grateful you include correction in upcoming newspaper? I’m sure our RSTV members will also be sending you lots of emails about this! Its really a serious issue, when the greatest threat to our marine environment isn’t from our LONG outfalls, but from the storm drains that are so short.

  • The reporters fail to metion that David Anderson is not just a “former MP” but Canada’s longest-serving Environment Minister. He has followed this issue for decades and, while not a scientist, must be accounted a pretty knowledgeable source.

    I note also the reference to “100-metre-long pipes” into the Strait. In fact the pipes are about a mile in length and end in diffusers.

  • I would love to see the scientific studies referred to by Mr. Penner. They simply do not exist. At best he has misinterpreted a couple of reports that his aide has read.

    If Mr. Penner is referring to the MacDonald Report, this report simply brings to light contamination of the ocean floor surrounding the Macaulay sewage outfall. But it fails to link this contamination to sewage. It merely recommends further studies. Moreover, this report makes no mention that this area used to be used as Victoria’s garbage and nuisance dump before the Hartland landfill was brought on stream. Amongst the many nuisance items dumped there were car radiators and batteries, both rich in lead and other heavy metals. There are also reports of a sunken coal barge near the outfall. The fact that ocean bed contamination is DECREASING around the outfalls further weakens the link between ocean bed contamination and sewage.

    Or, perhaps Mr. Penner is referring to a curious paragraph in the SETAC report: “Relying on the dilution and natural dispersion …is not a long-term answer to wastewater disposal…also contribute contaminant loads to the Strait and to Puget Sound ”. This is unfortunate because there is evidence this paragraph was added after the fact, given that it has zero support in the body of the report and its absurd claim that Victoria’s effluent will [travel up stream] to the contaminate the Puget Sound.

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