December 31, 2010




On a day between Christmas and New Years in 2005, several of us gathered at a home to start to lay out the plan to challenge the impending pressure for additional land-based sewage treatment in the CRD. Over the past five years, ARESST has emerged and our resistance to the unnecessary sewage plant project continues unabated. Some terrific work by our scientists has really been a key point, but also be many others who have dedicated their time and energy to this struggle. 

As we look forward to 2011, ARESST and RSTV will likely be leading the ongoing resistance to the land-based sewage project plan, but we can look forward to more members of the community waking up to whats in front of them. 

How about going to your municipal levée on New Year's Day - schedule attached - to drop a little word with the Mayor and Councillors there about your sewage plant concerns? 

Best wishes for the New Year 2011!

John N


ARESST: Quote from commentary below that relates to storm water and our CRD sewage treatment issue:
Orcas are among the most contaminated mammals in the world, so we must clean up coastal waters. Adopting the Washington state law that requires "green" storm water management would be an inexpensive start; storm water is the leading source of urban water pollution. ARESST members may be aware of Sandborn's previous report that noted stormwater drains may be more problematic than sewage outfall effluent (page 42)


DECEMBER 29, 2010

The courts are finally losing patience with Ottawa's continuing subversion of the Species at Risk Act. Earlier this month, Federal Court Justice James Russell ruled that Ottawa acted illegally when it refused to protect orcas from pollution, boats and lack of salmon. The decision was remarkably critical of the federal government, citing its "highly evasive" response to those who questioned government policy.

This case is just the latest in a series of stinging court judgments. For example, last year Justice Douglas Campbell nullified the fisheries minister's order that scientists remove critical habitat maps from the recovery strategy for the endangered Nooksack dace. Campbell described that case as "a story about the creation and application of policy by the minister in clear contravention of the law ... this is a case about rule of law."

Russell's new decision will now require the government to follow the law -- and create rules to address the three main threats to the 87 southern resident orcas:

- Lack of salmon;

- Toxic contamination;

- Disturbance by boats.

To deal with the salmon issue, we must redouble salmon conservation and enhancement efforts -- and adjust fishing openings to meet orca needs.

Orcas are among the most contaminated mammals in the world, so we must clean up coastal waters. Adopting the Washington state law that requires "green" storm water management would be an inexpensive start; storm water is the leading source of urban water pollution.

Finally, Ottawa must regulate whale watching. All summer long, from morning until night, 76 commercial whale watching boats chase 87 orcas around Haro Strait. Scouts on land, air and water ensure that the thundering zodiacs track down the whales. Unfortunately, these commercial boats then act as magnets for all the other boats nearby. As a result, up to 100 boats can surround half a dozen whales. Federal documents cite a summertime average of 19 to 22 vessels near the orcas in Haro Strait.

The movement and noise from all these boats interfere with the whales' ability to hunt for food, to communicate with each other, and to rest. For example, one study found that sleep patterns of the orcas have changed -- they've stopped sleeping during the day. Another study showed that when boats approach, orcas change their dive patterns and swim faster and farther. This may increase their energy use by three per cent annually. The researcher explained the potential danger of this increased energy demand:

Once food becomes limited as it is today, even a couple of per cent over the course of a year can be a matter of life or death.

Clearly, if we want the endangered southern resident orcas to survive for another generation, we must regulate whale watching. Recently the Lifeforce Foundation retained the University of Victoria Environmental Law Clinic to develop a proposed set of whale watching regulations. After reviewing the laws and guidelines from over 30 countries, the law clinic has recommended that the following rules be applied to whale watching boats:

- Prohibit them from approaching within 500 metres of a whale;

- Limit the allowable viewing time to 30 minutes;

- Require boats to utilize quiet engines and reduce speed near whales;

- Establish "no-go" zones and weekly "days of rest," to allow whales to rest, free from boat interference;

- Prohibit the practice of radioing the location of whales to other vessels;

- Prohibit encircling of whales;

- Mandate training of operators and education of the public about the needs of whales;

- Enhance enforcement efforts by giving non-government monitors half of the fines imposed as a result of their monitoring efforts.

The fact is that the 87 southern resident orcas teeter on the brink of extinction.

We cannot afford to lose them.

Their extinction would not only mark loss of a key species and ecosystem collapse, it would also be a shattering blow to B.C. culture, identity and way of life.

To the world, and to ourselves, we are the land of the orca. They are the premier symbol of Supernatural British Columbia.

We must ensure that resident orcas do not disappear from our coast.

To save them, Ottawa must stop flouting the law. Government needs to immediately implement strong regulations for the whale watching industry.

- Calvin Sandborn is legal director and Rose Keates a law student at the University of Victoria Environmental Law Clinic. Sandborn-Keates orca report.


ARESST: Shaun had noted the huge Duwamish water contamination issues in his CFAX radio talk last week.


The Environmental Protection Agency has unveiled a draft plan outlining 11 options to clean up the toxic waste contaminating the lower Duwamish River. They range from dredging and removing nearly 300 acres of toxic sediments, to isolating the pollutants by capping them with rock, to essentially letting nature take its course.

Craig Welch
Seattle Times
30 December 2010

Contractors are ripping windows out now, preparing to demolish one of the most contaminated buildings along the Duwamish River: Boeing's Plant 2.

But tearing down the old manufacturing hub that once produced B-17 bombers may be, in a sense, the easy part.

The most complex and expensive portions of the decades-long rehabilitation of Seattle's dirtiest waterway are likely to come.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently unveiled a draft plan outlining 11 options to clean up the toxic waste contaminating the lower Duwamish. They range from dredging and removing nearly 300 acres of toxic sediments, to capping pollutants with rock, to essentially letting nature take its course. Several options mix all three.

The projects would cost at least $220 million and perhaps as much as $1.3 billion. The bill would be paid by Boeing, local taxpayers and an assortment of South Seattle businesses. The work could take as little as
four years — or as many as 43.

A final choice on how to proceed isn't expected until 2012.

The river that cuts through Seattle's Georgetown and South Park neighborhoods was polluted by a century of industrial use. High levels of long-lasting polychlorinated biphenyls and other toxic substances are in
river sediments and along its shorelines. More comes in every day.

Years ago, state and federal investigators ordered King County, the city of Seattle, the Port of Seattle and Boeing to begin cleaning up a handful of the most dangerous sites, such as Boeing's Plant 2.

But nearly 10 years after the EPA listed the lower five miles of the Seattle's industrial river corridor as a Superfund site, it's clear that cleaning the river itself is not without complications.

The $66 million already being spent on early work, such as the razing of the Boeing plant, alone will reduce river contamination by nearly half. EPA predicts each of the remaining cleanup options ultimately could reduce contamination by about 90 percent.

But the effectiveness of some approaches is more uncertain than others. That's one reason the price tags and time frames vary so dramatically.

And those same time frames and cost estimates don't take into account additional, ongoing efforts to find and stop hundreds of sources of new contamination. Halting the pollution running off all the toxic sites and
into the river will itself take years and millions of dollars more.

Still, those most closely tied to the cleanup say the Duwamish River is unlikely to ever be pristine. Anglers in the future will still be advised to avoid regularly eating certain resident fish.

That news came as a blow to neighborhood groups that have spent years complaining that their blighted river doesn't seem to receive the same attention as others.

"If everything in there works, it would be 90 percent cleaner, but that remaining 10 percent has serious health impacts on the low-income, immigrant and tribal people who are out there every day catching fish,"
said BJ Cummings, with the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition. "We have a menu of options that basically guarantees failure in meeting that basic goal."

Others working on the cleanup say that's in part because small amounts of pollution from the Green River upstream are expected to continue flushing into the Duwamish for decades.

"We live in an urban environment; there are a lot of urban places where you can't drink surface water. Eating fish from urban areas is in the same category," said Steve Tochko, environmental remediation manager for
Boeing. "It's why we have fish- consumption advisories around every urban area in the Puget Sound region. If you really want a place where there're no fish advisories you generally have to get to a place where there are no people."

Eventually, the Port and the city of Seattle will be responsible for a significant portion of the work, and officials with those agencies aren't willing to identify which option they prefer. But it's clear they don't
support the most expensive and slowest one, which relies almost exclusively on dredging and removing most of the sediments.

Cleanup has to take into consideration cost as well as the length of disruption to the city's trade corridor, said Dave Schuchardt, the city's program manager for the Duwamish.

The EPA next year is expected to put together a final list of cleanup options. It will chose one of the options in 2012.

To learn more, you can review the plan and short fact sheets at

Questions can be directed to: Suzanne Skadowski at 206-553-6689 or; or Renee Dagseth at 206-553-1889 or

Comments can be e-mailed to:

EPA will consider all comments submitted by Jan. 14.


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