February 25, 2011




Land-based system will result in huge increases to utility costs

Dr. Shaun Peck
Times Colonist

I live in Victoria and noticed that my recent utility bill showed an increase of 66 per cent on the rate at which I will be charged for Capital Regional District sewage costs. This is because Victoria, along with Saanich and Oak Bay, have or will be shifting this cost from the property tax to the utility charge.

At this new rate, based on last year's measured water use, I will be paying $102 annually. (This is in addition to the other utility charges -water service, garbage, city sewer and water consumption charges).

This charge is going to increase significantly in the years ahead based on funding the proposed landbased sewage treatment plants. (Preliminary estimate of $782 million and annual operating cost of $14.5 million). Even with cost sharing, the bill for City of Victoria households could be five to 10 times this, or in my case as much as $1,020 per year on the utility bill.

At present, the amount to be billed to the individual householder is theoretical and it appears from my inquiries that we will not know the cost until we get our utility bills. After the first year's true cost, there is no doubt there will be significant regular increases.

If the federal and provincial governments each share one-third of the capital costs, taxpayers will also be paying through income taxes, otherwise all the costs will be on the local householders and businesses.

Until recent years, most homeowners have found their utility bills to be a relatively low annual cost. However, if the construction of the land-based sewage treatment plants go ahead as planned, homeowners may only find out after the fact the huge increases they will be paying.

My total utility bill has increased 38 per cent in the past five years or 7.6 per cent per year. However, that can be expected to continue to increase -particularly if the City of Victoria shifts more costs onto the utility bill, such is being discussed for rainwater drainage, in addition to the CRD sewer costs.

This shift means that property taxes may not be raised as much (or could even be reduced, which is highly unlikely) but it is a tax shift or tax diversion from what has in the past been paid for with property taxes.

There is still time to review whether land-based sewage treatment is needed for Victoria. The evidence is that the marine environment treats our liquid waste naturally and very effectively after screening via the two engineered deep-sea outfalls.

Monitoring has shown a minimal effect on the ocean floor environment and there is no measurable public health risk.

This marine environment is unique. If the total environment is considered (marine, land and global), the land-based sewage plants will result in an overall negative effect compared with the current method of disposal of our liquid waste.

Householders who pay annual taxes or utility bills should be aware that there will be these surprising increases in the future if the $782-million sewage treatment megaproject goes ahead as planned. It will be a massive outlay of public funds equivalent to the cost of 10 Blue Bridges.

There is still time to reconsider the decision to build these sewage treatment plants. We need a comparison of the cost of the current system and its present effect on the environment compared with the proposed (likely underestimated) cost (including the operating cost) of the proposed treatment system and its overall environmental effect.

Let us hope that a new premier will reconsider the political decision that was made to order the CRD to plan for land-based sewage treatment.

- Dr. Shaun Peck was the medical health officer for the Capital Regional District from 1989-1995. He is a board member of the Association for Responsible and Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment, www.aresst.ca



Scientist to head People for Puget Sound

Joel Connelly
Seattle PI Blog
22 February 2011
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People for Puget Sound has landed an East Coast scientist as its new executive director.

Tom Bancroft, who has been chief scientist and vice president for the National Audubon Society, will succeed founder Kathy Fletcher in June as the group’s executive director.

Dr. Bancroft headed Audubon’s scientific evaluation of last year’s BP Gulf Oil Spill, and has worked extensively on water issues in the Everglades.  He is a former vice president of The Wilderness Society.

People for Puget Sound has spent more than two decades campaigning to make the cleanup of Washington’s inland waterway, and recovery of its marine life, into a national priority.

As well, the group has found a cross-border ally in the Georgia Strait Alliance, and worked on pressuring the British Columbia government to finally agree on treating Victoria-area  sewage currently dumped raw into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

It found key state supporters:   U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., has secured federal research dollars while Gov. Chris Gregoire launched the Puget Sound Partnership early in her first term.  But the Partnership has lately experienced a somewhat rocky leadership transition.

President Obama has proposed to spend slightly less than $20 million on Puget Sound cleanup in the upcoming fiscal year.

See related news story: 

Puget Sound Partnership steadfast in science-based solutions to environmental threats




Call for Sessions: Papers, Panels and Workshops

The Conference Steering Committee is inviting proposals for sessions for panel presentations, interactive sessions, and facilitated panels that will encourage interdisciplinary and transboundary collaboration and networking among scientists, policy-makers, students and other stakeholders.

Participants in the 2011 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference will include natural and social scientists, policy-makers, Coast Salish Tribes and First Nations, resource managers, community leaders, educators and students. Given the multi-sector nature of the event, proposals that cross disciplines and are applicable and engaging to this wide range of participants are encouraged.

Please note that we are seeking only session proposals at this time.

A separate Call for Abstracts and Presenters will be released after session topics are selected.

Do not submit abstracts at this time.

The Conference Planning Committees seek proposals that address one or more of the following:

- Emerging scientific research, modeling, monitoring and assessments, including natural, social and trans-disciplinary sciences
- Scientific research that addresses and increases the mutual understanding of specific policy, program or management issues or questions, including the use of traditional knowledge
- Policy, program management and cultural issues relevant to the conduct of scientific, research, modeling, monitoring and other decision support tools
- Ecosystem issues and research related to the Coast Salish peoples
- Ecological and human health risk assessment for predicting the impacts of contaminants, invasive species and management activities.

A wide range of session topic proposals is encouraged that addresses the science, policy and management of the Salish Sea ecosystem specifically including:

- Marine, nearshore, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems
- Air and water quality as it affects ecosystem health
- Aquatic and terrestrial species and food webs
- Land use, protection, and restoration especially as they relate to growth and development
- Human health and well being
- Climate Change, including its effects on ecosystem processes and human health
- Development and application of decision support frameworks, models and systems to aid ecosystem management.

Session Topics proposals should consider:

- how the topic contributes to advancing our basic scientific or management understanding of the Salish Sea
- how the topic relates to the most pressing scientific or management issues facing the restoration and protection of the Salish Sea, and
- the policy and/or transboundary significance of the topic in protecting or restoring the Salish Sea.


Emily Gertz
Chemical & Engineering News
24 February 2011

When municipal wastewater treatment plants clean up sewage, they never fully remove some types of contaminants. The plants don't track or treat some chemicals, such as pharmaceuticals, so these compounds remain in the water, or effluent, that plants release into the environment. Now Canadian researchers report that effluent can cause metabolic stress in rainbow trout, which could harm the long-term health of fish populations (Environ. Sci. Technol., DOI: 10.1021/es103122g).

Sewage treatment primarily reduces or removes trash, debris, organic matter, and disease-causing organisms from wastewater. Scientists worry about the impacts of the remaining compounds on aquatic organisms. Previous studies have investigated how individual chemicals or classes of these chemicals affect animals, particularly through their endocrine systems. Jennifer Ings, a graduate student at the University of Waterloo, and her colleagues wanted to understand how animals responded to a realistic mix of the substances that linger in treated municipal wastewater.

The researchers placed cages containing eight to16 juvenile trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) at five locations in the Speed River in Guelph, Ontario. Three of the sites were downstream of a municipal wastewater treatment plant. The water at these spots consisted of 100%, 50%, and 10% effluent. The final two sites were upstream of the plant and served as controls. After 14 days, Ings and her team collected the cages and examined the fish in their lab, performing analyses of hormone, protein, and gene expression levels.

Trout from the downstream sites, particularly the 50% and 100% effluent sites, showed increased cortisol and plasma glucose levels, both indicators of metabolic stress. The team also detected significant changes in the expression levels of 27 genes, several of which play roles in metabolism and stress response. The researchers concluded that fish exposed to the wastewater ramped up their energy use. If the exposure became chronic, says co-author Matt Vijayan, the extra energy expenditure could disrupt the animals' resilience, reproduction, and immune response over the long term.

Fish toxicologist Anne McElroy of the State University of New York, Stony Brook, says the study is important because it examines fish in actual wastewater effluent and takes a "holistic approach" by connecting changes in gene expression to changes in proteins and hormones. These observed gene and biochemical changes could lead to future health problems, she says.

The study reveals that current best practices for cleaning municipal wastewater fail to prevent possible ecological harm, says Vijayan. He points out that even after these thorough clean up techniques, this plant's effluent still had a biological effect on the fish.