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Wastewater treatment – Is it worth the $1,43 Billion pricetag?

Rob McDermot, PEng, Letter to 4th Dimension, Newsletter, of Victoria Branch Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC, October 2010

At the outset I would like to express my sincere appreciation to each of the speakers that contributed to making the September 15 APEGBC meeting the success it was, in particular Mr. Jack Hull, P.Eng – Project manager for the proposed wastewater treatment facility. His agreeing to present knowing full well the positions of each of the other three speakers is truly admirable. None the less, the arguments put forward by each of: Dr. Jack Littlepage, PhD – Biological Oceanographer; Dr. Shaun Peck, MD – former Deputy Provincial Health Officer; and Dr. Keith Martin, MD – Member of Parliament for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, lead one to question why the various levels of government feel it is necessary to throw taxpayers money away on a method of wastewater treatment that will have negligible net benefit to the Environment and a HUGE negative net benefit to the pocketbook of every resident of the Capital Regional District.

Each of the presentations put forward were very informative. Mr. Hull provided a polished presentation on the merits of the proposed wastewater treatment facility, which is scheduled to be built at McLaughlin Point for an estimated capital cost of $782,000,000.00 plus or minus 25%… if one were to assume the higher of the estimates, the likely capital cost would be closer to $977,500,000.00. Then there is the annual operating cost of $14,500,000.00 plus or minus 25%. Following the previous logic the likely cost would be $18,125,000.00 each and every year the facility is in operation. Therefore based on a 25 year design-life, the total cost of the facility could be as high as $1,430,625,000.00… or $1.43 Billion. $1.43 Billion is a very dear price to pay, but it’s to protect the environment… so it’s OK, right?

Not so! After listening to presentations from Dr. Jack Littlepage, PhD and Dr. Shaun Peck, MD one realizes that effects of the discharge from the deep-water diffusers are restricted to within 100m at Clover Point and within approximately 200m east of the Macaulay Point outfall diffuser. In fact, to quote the November 2008 Sewage Outfall Monitoring Test Results: 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.

All of which leads one to question why this is being endorsed. It is one thing to be blissfully ignorant of the science behind the issue, but to throw away the taxpayers money, our money, on an installation that, according to the scientists and medical professionals, will do absolutely nothing to correct the real dangers to our waters, (Arsenic, Chromium, Lead, Zinc, Mercury, PCBs and PBDEs) is irresponsible! Keep in mind the cost to build and maintain this less than effective solution could be $1.43 Billion… that’s more than the cost of 18 new Johnson Street Bridges, or 59 McTavish Rd/Hwy 17 Overpasses, to build a facility that could end up having a greater negative impact on the Environment as a whole than if we left the situation the way it is!

Toward the end of Dr. Jack Littlepage’s presentation he listed the following items as requisites for the protection of the marine environment:
Inclusion of the present system (plus enhancements) in the “triple bottom line” (environmental, social, economic) comparison of options

  • Greater public understanding of the Victoria Marine Discharge System
  • Action on more pressing marine environmental* and public health issues
  • Action on storm sewer discharges and their connections to sanitary sewers
  • HONEST AND OPEN DISCUSSION!

*Habitat protection, prevention of introduction of non-native species, regulation of fishing practices, elimination of some persistent pollutants

He concludes his presentation with this rather telling statement: “Land-based treatment of Victoria’s sewage is a low priority for marine environmental protection,” and to back up his statement he cites the Marine Pollution Bulletin, October 2008. If an expert in the field of Oceanography feels that the proposed wastewater treatment facility is a “low priority” and if the former Regional Medical Health Officer feels “there is no measurable public health risk from Victoria’s current method of offshore liquid waste disposal…”, then why is this facility being built?

It is not too late for us to have our opinions heard. This Wastewater Treatment Facility is not a “done-deal”, but the window of opportunity to have our opinions heard is fast closing. It is critically important to let those in power know how we, the taxpayers, feel about this decision. If you are interested in saving yourself somewhere in the neighbourhood of $400.00 to $500.00 of taxes per annum for as long as you choose to live in Greater Victoria, then please visit the websites ARESST (The Association for Responsible and Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment in Victoria) www.aresst.ca and RSTV (Responsible Sewage Treatment Victoria) www.rstv.ca

Please make your voice heard.

Rob McDermot, PEng

Permalink: http://aresst.ca/2010/10/25/wastewater-tre…lion-price-tag/
Published on: Oct 25, 2010 @ 12:09
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Categories Letters, Media Reports
Tags X APEGBCX CRDX ecosystemX naturalX sewageX treatmentX VictoriaX Waste Water
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