February 14, 2011




City of Victoria City Hall, Committee Room, 12noon - 2pm

1. Stormwater Utility
(Referral from Environment & Infrastructure Standing Committee Feb. 10, 2011)
--Ed Robertson, Assistant Director Public Works



Trying to make the sewage sludge "biosolids" PenGrow product acceptable: 

Biosolids Management Program - Proposed Pilot Study: http://www.crd.bc.ca/reports/saanichpeninsulawast_/2011february_/spwwcstaffreport17fe/spwwcstaffreport17fe.pdf



ARESST: Some new ARESST members may not be aware of the long-standing work that Ted Dew-Jones has done on this CRD sewage treatment issue. Ted first of all was the lead engineer building our two long outfalls, and in the lead-up to first sewage referendum in 1991, Ted published the Victoria Sewage Circus text, now online and updated. 

From Responsible Sewage Treatment Victoria's website (with nice new website design!): 

An analysis of the significance of the July 2006 report conclusions concerning liquid waste management in Victoria. A report by the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) commissioned by the Capital Regional District (CRD). 

Analysis by Ted Dew-Jones P.Eng.

The significance of this report is that a quotation from it was given by the B.C. Minister of Environment as the reason for requiring the CRD to plan for land based sewage treatment. 

It is the conclusions of any report like the one under consideration that matter. When the clients are not experts in the topic under examination it is all they should need to read. They should leave the rest for consideration by their own expert staff who will pass on any reservations they may have about such conclusions. Medical, marine science and engineering staff were all available to the CRD. Therefore this analysis simply examines the report’s conclusions but before that a number of issues need clarifying. 

The members of the SETAC review were highly qualified and had held prestigious positions but it does not follow that they should have been retained for this study. That action presumes they would know better what to do than our own Canadian marine scientists and medical health officers who had been examining the issue for a generation. It ignores the fact that an internationally renowned oceanographic center is located at Patricia Bay on the Saanich Peninsular that had been monitoring these waters since the 1920s. Why the SETAC panel, rather than Canadian and local experts, was retained received no publicity. 

Whether covered in the terms of reference or otherwise, the CRD clearly needed to know in brief the history of long outfalls. One page would have been enough to explain the presentation by the USA’s most renowned Oceanographer at the time to a committee of Congress explaining why secondary treatment was not needed with long outfalls; that a British Royal Commission had deduced that under the right conditions, “long outfalls could be environmentally preferable”. 

The marine environmental conditions off Victoria are ideal. The issue has been treated by the CRD and SETAC as though this was the world’s first long outfall whereas there had been 35 years of study in four countries.         

A brief explanation about the sea and how long outfalls work was needed but is not there. Many imagined problems would be overcome, for example, if it were known that the sea has been eroding whole mountain ranges over the millennia and is full of potentially toxic metals in vast amounts but tiny concentrations. It is not possible to pollute the sea with such materials beyond the zone needed to dilute it to acceptable levels. 

The relative significance of the long outfall discharges compared with other discharges is not given. A secondary treatment plant will effectively dilute the sewage tenfold before discharge. Since long outfalls can ensure the dilution is about ten times more it is therefore likely that the environmental impact of the long outfalls on the waters to which they discharge is less than that of any secondary treatment plants. The heavy metal content is less than that of the discharge from the Annacis island secondary plant that discharges into the Fraser River, a delicate fresh water environment and a major fish resource.  If environmental impacts of concern throughout the Province were priorized our long outfalls would not get onto the list at all.

The adverse impact of building and operating land based plants are substantial on health, safety, environmental and energy use grounds. The manufacture transportation and installation of the materials for the massive contract is only one of many items. They have not been examined in comparison with the current minimal effect on the marine environment. It is beyond reasonable doubt that they exceed that of our long outfalls and do so by a wide margin. An Act (the BC Environmental Management Act) to protect the environment is being used to damage it. It follows that the order by the Minister under an Act to protect the environment is probably not valid but it has not been challenged.

The SETAC report never received a Peer review, as the CRD had intended, which means it’s value is limited. However this was the report used by the Minister of Environment to justify the order he gave to the CRD to plan for land based sewage treatment.

That order used a passage from the text of the report and ignored the conclusions. They do not support that passage.   

The Conclusions of the SETAC report.

 Relevant paragraphs from the conclusions are quoted with my comments inset below each one.

 “While there is a tremendous volume of scientific data, the benefits of treatment cannot be described or calculated with precision”. 

 They are not even described imprecisely either. No benefits of treatment are described at all.

“This observation does not mean that the benefits of treatment would be insignificant.”

 A sentence that describes what another sentence does not mean has no logical meaning.

“People can reach different conclusions based on their own interpretation of the available evidence.....in such circumstances great deference is due to the expressed will of the electorate......residents of the CRD indicated through a referendum 14 years ago that the benefits of treatment did not outweigh its considerable costs. Due to changed circumstances, decision makers should assume that this may no longer be the case”.

These are political opinions and clearly have no place in the report that is meant to be a scientific review. These opinions may well be wrong, were not supported by any data and imply that technical issues were not the SETAC panel’s main concern.

“The panel believes it is likely that, if a BCA (benefit cost analysis) could be conducted to state of the art standards, it would find that treatment is justified. This conclusion rests on the Panel’s perception that the electorate would now support treatment”.       

Whether the electorate would now support treatment (for which there is no evidence) has nothing whatever to do with a BCA. A real BCA would be valuable and would comprise an examination of the benefits of providing land based treatment with the benefits that the same money could bring to the environment if spent in other ways. Clearly those benefits would be massive but a BCA can never be carried out if, as is the case, no benefits of providing land based treatment have been established. The benefits of spending the money on other ways would be infinite! 

“The CRD might consider steps to.....refine its estimates of the costs of different treatment options.... The latter activity would be a proactive step toward identifying the treatment option that, if selected, would best meet the long term needs of the community and the anticipated future regulatory environment. Benefit-cost prescriptions have been suggested for such choices: the best choice among options is that for which the last dollar spent on treatment costs is just balanced by an equal gain in benefits. However, a potential approach might be to install treatment comparable to that now employed in the similar cities surveyed in Section 4.8 of the report”. ( i.e. land based treatment plants).         

This is the only paragraph that mentions treatment and it should therefore provide the answer by SETAC to the essential question as to whether the CRD should be providing land based treatment or not. The value of the whole report can be fairly judged on the clarity of this final paragraph in answering the CRD’s question.         

J.E.Dew-Jones, P.Eng.      

February 12th 2011




Fry grow up to 95 per cent bigger in streams treated with nutrients, fisheries biologists say

Times Colonist
Postmedia News 
February 13, 2011
Comments (1)

Young steelhead and salmon grew dramatically in streams seeded with sacks of slow-release fertilizer, a method that shows real promise to help rebuild collapsed spawning populations, according to B.C. biologists.

The method has proven effective at improving steelhead growth and survival in Vancouver Island streams in programs dating back to 1989.

Steelhead fry in treated areas are typically about 95-per-cent larger than those in untreated streams, while coho fry are about 40-per-cent bigger. Fish counts in the Keogh River found a 50-per-cent increase in the number of coho that survived the freshwater stage of life.

Fisheries biologists are using fertilizers to replace the nutrients that would be added to the stream naturally by the rotting carcasses of fish that die after spawning, said Kevin Pellett of the B.C. Conservation Foundation. Enhancement programs are operating in 15 watersheds and 28 rivers on the Island and southwestern B.C.

When spawners fail to return, die and rot due to overfishing or ecological conditions, the entire food chain of the stream, from algae and insects to fish fry, goes into decline.

The fertilizers are designed to stimulate growth of certain algaes that in turn cause the populations of insects such as mayfly and stonefly to thrive. Juvenile salmon and steelhead fry feed on those insects.

“When you fertilize a stream it really stimulates algae growth,” said Pellett. “It’s the brown slime that we are really after because the key insects prefer the brown diatomaceous algae.”

Steelhead fry growing downstream from the fertilizer caches are bigger and typically 75- to 250-per-cent heavier than those upstream, which would not be expected to benefit from the improved food supply, according to the most recent data. Larger, more robust fish are more likely to survive and return as spawning adults.

“When those fish go into key overwintering periods, that’s where you see a lot of mortality,” Pellett said.

“The bigger those fish are, the more of them will survive.”

The first application of fertilizer is timed to benefit the tiny steelhead and coho fry that hatch and emerge from the stream bed gravel in the early spring.

Since the first stream enhancement programs started in 1989, a variety of fertilizers and delivery systems have been employed, including liquid fertilizers and fish meal.

“We’ve since switched to a new product called Crystal Green,” he said.

Crystal Green is a slow-release agricultural fertilizer comprised of nitrogen and phosphate recovered from municipal waste water using a technology invented by civil engineers at the University of B.C. The Vancouver-based manufacturer, Ostara, is harvesting a waste material called struvite for the fertilizer from the sewage stream in suburban Portland.

“This is not a panacea, but it is a good tool to increase productivity and it may increase the rate of rebuilding [spawning populations] if we see an increase in the ocean survival,” according to Greg Wilson of the Ministry of Natural Resource Operations.

“[Struvite] is one of the most cost-effective techniques that we have to help out populations,” said Wilson. “Using recycled phosphorus really reduces the carbon footprint of the project, because fertilizer is quite energy intensive to make.”

Testing on Crystal Green showed the material is extraordinarily pure with few measurable contaminants or metals.

“It’s the cleanest fertilizer we’ve ever worked with,” said Wilson.

Metro Vancouver is running a pilot project at the Lulu Island sewage treatment facility to produce its own version of the fertilizer to be used in the Seymour River, Wilson said.

Crystal Green Pellets are dropped into the stream in burlap sacks, which decay over time. That simple system eliminates the need for expensive liquid fertilizer delivery systems that require maintenance and that are prone to vandalism.

The concept of fertilizing fish habitat dates back thousands of years to China, where carp ponds were fertilized with human feces, Wilson explained.

More recently, the federal and provincial governments have partnered with conservation organizations since the 1990s to fertilize a number of lakes in B.C. with the aim of improving trout and kokanee salmon populations.

Nutrient additions to the Allouette Reservoir in 1999 generated a 12-fold increase in the resident kokanee population and sparked the first adult sockeye returns to the reservoir since 1928, he said.

That unexpected result gives fisheries biologists hope that this approach could help B.C.’s collapsed salmon spawning populations recover enough to become self-sufficient again.

Steelhead and coho in the test streams benefit from two seasons of enhanced growth, the first as tiny fry and the second as a smolt ready to begin its adult life.

Pellett says hatchery data show that the larger salmon smolts are when they leave freshwater for salt water, the more adult spawners return. Fertilizer-based enhancement programs are sending bigger smolts to sea and more smolts overall.

“The more smolts we send out the more adults we get back,” he said.

As spawning populations grow, the rotting carcasses of dead spawners are expected to regain their position as the natural source of elemental nutrients in spawning streams.

“We are starting to see critical mass developing in the steelhead and coho populations on Vancouver Island,” Pellett said.

The Vancouver Island fertilizer enhancement programs are run by the B.C. Conservation Foundation with support from the province, Living Rivers — Georgia Basin Vancouver Island, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and a handful of other conservation organizations.