March 24, 2011

 Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt.
Photo: Mayor Desjardins at McLoughlin Point

Kim Westad
Times Colonist
March 24, 2011
Letters to editor:

Just what -if anything -municipalities that end up hosting the region's sewage treatment system will receive in mitigation is not clear, and is awaiting a legal opinion.

Some municipal representatives say they should receive amenities in return for taking on the sewage treatment plant for the entire region. But others say that is the thin edge of the wedge and could cost taxpayers too much.

The Capital Regional District has been mandated by the provincial government to have secondary sewage treatment in place by 2016.

At present, sewage goes through a six-millimetre screen before being discharged into the ocean through a pipe.

The CRD board and the province have approved a plan that has one treatment site at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt.

Because that will treat only liquids, the sludge, what is left after the liquid is extracted, will be piped 18 kilometres to the Hartland landfill in Saanich.

However, the CRD still says it is looking for a site closer than Hartland, possibly in Victoria's Upper Harbour, which would reduce the overall $782-million projected cost of the project.

What the communities that end up with the sewage treatment infrastructure -Esquimalt, Saanich and potentially Victoria -might receive in return for having the sites has been bandied about since the fall.

Then, one report suggested Saanich and Esquimalt receive $2.5-million each. But that has changed.

The CRD has now asked for a legal opinion on whether a community amenity or benefit can even legally be provided.

If an amenity or benefit was given -for example, money for an ice rink -the CRD would be responsible for its entire cost.

However, if a municipality is provided with mitigation measures for the project, the cost would likely be shared between the CRD, the provincial government and the federal government.

But what is defined as mitigation was also up in the air. Some members of the CRD's sewage committee said mitigation could be "broadly defined."

In addition to the repair of roads and sidewalks that would automatically be carried out, it could include such things as a green space adjacent to the facility, or a public walkway as part of the construction project, Saanich councillor Vic Derman said.

Colwood Mayor Dave Saunders said more information is needed on what mitigation actually is and what it could cover.

"To me, it's a community benefit in some respect, but we don't know that," Saunders said.

The committee voted to get more information on what it would encompass, as well as clarifying in writing whether the provincial and federal government would provide a portion of funding.

"We're going through semantic somersaults here," Victoria councillor Chris Coleman said.

The committee also agreed, after a stern talking to from Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, to have another public meeting with Esquimalt residents about sewage treatment.

Desjardins and many residents do not want the sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point.

Some on the committee questioned the value of another meeting at this point, saying it would be "disingenuous" to meet with residents if they are under the impression the site will change.

Desjardins said she was "shocked and disappointed at the pettiness" of the reasons put forward for not having another public meeting with a community that has asked repeatedly for one.

The committee voted in favour of another meeting with Esquimalt residents, likely a town hall-style meeting. No date for the meeting was set.


ARESST: CRD's sewage chief Blackwell appears to say below that I was wrong in my previously-published letter  - a near-shore marine environmental impact assessment has been done on McLoughlin Point, but then she says CRD "...will prepare a Stage 2 Marine EIS following completion of two years of baseline sampling, which are required by the Ministry of Environment." Having reviewed that June 2010 terrestrial report, I can't see where it really examines anything about the marine environment. However, the  terrestrial environment report of  June 2010 itself says that "The marine Environmental Impact Study will assess potential impacts to fish habitat in the marine environment." (page 86). I should have been more clear in my letter that any future marine environment report will not be meeting BC Environmental Assessment Act requirements, but rather just to satisfy the skimpy BC Municipal Sewage Act.


Goldstream Gazette
March 22, 2011

Re: Sewage plant will foul harbour, Letters, March 11, 2011.

Letter writer John Newcomb states that “no environmental impact assessment of the point’s near-shore marine habitat has been done.” This not the case.

The June 2010 Environmental Impact Study of Core Area Wastewater Treatment Facilities: Terrestrial Environment (EIS) examined 12 categories of topics associated with the facility. The EIS focused on lands above the high tide line, but also assessed potential project impacts on the coastal environment.

The McLoughlin treatment facility will be built on a site already altered by blasting, levelling and removal of vegetation. The facility will be constructed entirely above the high tide level, which greatly reduces the potential to affect the near-shore marine environment.

Potential impacts of outfall construction and treated effluent discharge will be examined in the marine component of the EIS. A Stage 1 Marine EIS has been completed and the Capital Regional District will prepare a Stage 2 Marine EIS following completion of two years of baseline sampling, which are required by the Ministry of Environment.

During construction there will be strict requirements in the contract for environmental management and protection of the marine environment.

The McLoughlin treatment facility will present a much lower risk to the environment than the bulk fuel storage facilities previously located on the site.

The June 2010 EIS report can be found at

Denise Blackwell,
Chair, Core area liquid waste management committee



Derek Abma,
Postmedia News
March 21, 2011

Canadians say they appreciate the vast amount of fresh water that exists in this country, but are quite willing to waste much of it by unnecessarily disposing of things through toilets, according to results of a new study.

A survey — commissioned by the Royal Bank of Canada and diversified product maker Unilever, with the endorsement of the United Nations Water For Life Decade project — had 72 per cent of respondents saying they dispose of things such as hair, bugs, cigarette butts and food by flushing them down the toilet.

"We should stop using our toilets as garbage cans," said Bob Sandford, chairman of the Canadian Partnership Initiative of the UN Water for Life Decade.

Sandford and others, including former prime minister Jean Chretien, are part of a three-day conference in Toronto dealing with global water issues. It coincides with World Water Day on Tuesday.

Each flush of a toilet uses six to 20 litres of fresh water, noted Sandford, not to mention the energy used to move and to treat that water.

Almost half the water Canadians use is flushed down the toilet, the study said. It cited data from Environment Canada that shows Canadians use 329 litres of water a day per capita. That's about double the amount of Europeans, Sandford said.

There are various ways people try to justify flushing things not meant to be flushed, such as not wanting insects eggs being laid in one's house or making sure cigarette butts don't start a fire. But there's always a better way to deal with such issues, Sandford said.

"I don't think you need to use 20 litres of water to put out a cigarette," he said.

Results of the survey, released Monday, had 55 per cent of respondents saying fresh water is Canada's most important natural resource, and 78 per cent claimed they make reasonable efforts to conserve it.

Other water-wasting activities survey respondents admitted to included leaving the water running while washing dishes (46 per cent) and hosing down driveways (17 per cent).

Sandford said the supply of water, even in Canada, is not without its limits. However, it might not be an easy point to make, especially at this time of year when lakes and rivers are at high levels from melting snow.

However, Sandford said signs of water scarcity are starting to show up in places such as Saskatchewan, southern Ontario and the Okanagan region in British Columbia. An implication right now, for example, is that new permits to use water for food production or other industrial uses are not being granted in southern Saskatchewan, he said.

"In time, if we don't manage our water resources efficiently, there are going to be places in the country where availability of water is going to limit our social and economic development in the future," Sandford said.

He said some of the moderate limitations on water usage in Canada now resemble the types of things that preceded serious shortages in other parts of the world.

Bryan Karney, a water supply expert teaching at the University of Toronto, said it's difficult to imagine Canada as a whole ever experiencing a water shortage, though that is a risk in certain regions.

Karney added that if one area runs of out water, replacing it with supplies from another part of the country is not so simple.

"Moving water in any significant quantity a long distance is extraordinarily expensive," he said. "It requires a pipeline, it requires infrastructure, it requires energy and it requires a huge, complicated process of reassessment of what that water is currently doing in its (other location)."

The study used results of online polling of 2,066 adult Canadians conducted by Ipsos Reid between Jan. 10 and 17.

The researchers said the results were weighted to reflect Canadian demographics and that an unweighted sample of this size would normally be representative of the population within 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


ARESST: In response to my inquiry, Transport Canada claimed that there was more contamination flowing into Victoria Harbour than out of it. Seeing the issue of this Rock Bay contamination, I am skeptical
of that claim!


B.C. Hydro tries to recover millions for fixing toxic mess in Rock Bay
Rob Shaw
Times Colonist
March 24, 2011

A complicated, over-budget, multimillion-dollar cleanup in Victoria's Upper Harbour will one day mean you'll pay more for electricity.

B.C. Hydro, which is removing and treating a 100-year-old toxic stew of contaminants in Rock Bay, applied this month for a special account to recover the millions it's spending on the project, plus interest, through electricity rate hikes, the Crown corporation confirmed.

Exactly how much of a rate increase, and when, is unknown because the B.C. Utilities Commission has yet to approve the application, called the Rock Bay Remediation Regulatory Account. "If the BCUC accepts the regulatory account filing, at some time in the future . we will ask for cost recovery in rates," said Aki Lintunen, Hydro's director of properties.

"In the meantime, we will be submitting applications each year to deposit actual expenditures into the regulatory account as we incur those costs."

B.C. Hydro has already proposed rate hikes of 9.73 per cent annually until 2013-14 to help pay for upgrades to its systems. That is unrelated to the Rock Bay project.

The mess of contaminants in Rock Bay is left over from a B.C. Electric Co. coal steam plant that helped to heat homes dating back to colonial times. In converting coal to gas energy, the plant dumped chemicals and coal tar into the bay for almost 100 years, until it closed in 1952.

B.C. Hydro inherited the site and the obligation to clean it up. It partnered with Transport Canada, which is responsible for the harbour, in 2004 to help split costs.

Hydro is claiming only $2 million in Rock Bay expenses in 2011, but is expected to claim more.

The original budget from 2004 has grown by $7 million, to $40 million, and the initial completion date of 2007 has long since passed, with no new deadlines set. It is the largest and most complicated remediation project of its kind in B.C.

Hydro said it needs the regulatory account to record actual money spent each year because it has had trouble estimating future costs and timing. Officials have said every time they clean one section they find additional contamination.

Most of the contaminated soil from Hydro's portion of the Rock Bay lands will be removed and destroyed by 2012, the corporation says in its application to the utilities commission.

But cleanup of soil and groundwater under nearby heritage buildings, as well as on the former Supersave site and adjacent private property, has barely started and will take years, the application says.

The operation is further complicated by legal action. Both sides have publicly portrayed themselves as partners, but Hydro's filing reveals that it has been sued by Transport Canada.

"In late 2006, B.C. Hydro withdrew from its agreements with Transport Canada to complete the remediation of Rock Bay," Transport Canada said in a statement. "As a result, Transport Canada took legal action to protect the federal government and the taxpayers' interest, and to ensure B.C. Hydro honours its cost-sharing obligations to clean up Rock Bay."

The court action is suspended while both sides negotiate, Transport Canada said. Hydro called the court action a "technical" move by Transport Canada to protect limitation periods, and said it has not affected co-operation.

Both sides say they are committed to finishing the project.