May 21, 2011



SEWAGE FORUM 26 MAY DRIVEN BY GRASSROOTS EFFORTS  (speakers include several ARESST members)

Goldstream Gazette AND Victoria News
May 18, 2011

A community-driven forum is taking shape that will explore the Capital Region's sewage treatment system.

While Esquimalt residents have led organization efforts, they have been reaching out to more than 30 resident associations in Greater Victoria to generate interest in the public discussion.

It's the first time a regional community-driven forum on the subject has been organized, and is being billed as "Understanding Wastewater Management in Victoria, Do we have the right plan?"

Already, several groups appear keen to be part of the initiative, said organizer Karen James, co-chair with the Esquimalt Residents Association.

She said she felt compelled to try and open the door to a regional dialogue because of the astronomical billion-dollar price tag associated with new sewage treatment facilities.

"Nobody wants to talk about human waste," James noted.

Several non-partisan speakers have already been lined up, including University of Victoria biologist Jack Littlepage and Seattle-based oceanographer Andrea Copping, Dr. Richard Stanwick, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Island Health Authority, University of Victoria health economist Rebecca Warburton, Bruce Cuthbert, director of the Esquimalt Residents Association, as well as several members of the Association for Responsible and Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment, such as retired chemical engineer Bob Furber, former B.C. medical health officer Shaun Peck, and association chair John Bergbusch.

The forum isn't a not-in-my-backyard initiative, and will allow residents to get beyond the "emotional information" that is currently out there, said James.

"We wish for the facts to speak for themselves after this."

The forum takes place May 26 from 7 to 9 p.m. at S.J. Willis educational centre, 923 Topaz Ave.




4. Biosolids - Land Application of Biosolids 

(a) Presentation by G. Harris, CRD Environmental Protection

(b) Staff report presented to April 27 Environmental Sustainability Committee and April 21 Saanich Peninsula Wastewater Commission meetings
REPORT - Report presented to ESC and SPWWC Re Land Application of Class A Biosolids - Literature Review: 

(c) Correspondence:
(i) Letter to Chair Geoff Young and Directors, CRD Board, from Barry Penner, Minister of Environment re Amendment #8 to Core Area Liquid Waste Management Plan(25 August 2010):

(ii) Letter to Chair Geoff Young and Directors, CRD Board, from Barry Penner, Minister of Environment re Amendment #7 to Core Area Liquid Waste Management Plan (09 February 2010):

(iii) Letter to Andy Liu, CRD Environmental Engineering, from Chair Maxwell, Peninsula Agricultural Commission re Presentation to PAC – Bio-solids (27 April 2011):

(iv) Material Submitted by Director Lucas:

5. Reports for Information Only:

a) Integration of Solid and Liquid Waste Management Plans – Feasibility Study - staff report presented to April 27 Environmental Sustainability Committee and May 11 Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee:

b) Integrated Resource Recovery Study – Metro Vancouver and North Shore Communities by Fidelis Resource Group (29 March 2011):


Motion to Protect Local Farmland and to Harmonize Sewage Treatment Strategies Within the CRD:


On May 17th 2011, John Bergbusch, Chair of ARESST, Alex Murdoch, Vice-Chair of ARESST, Dr Jay Cullen, Chemical Oceanographer and Dr Shaun Peck had a half hour meeting with Minister Dr Terry Lake and his staff. 

The following are the remarks made by Dr Shaun Peck.

Thank you for meeting with us to-day. 

From a public health perspective there will be no measurable benefit from building land based sewage treatment plants for Victoria.  This fact has been acknowledged by a previous BC Minister of Environment.

I wish to make a plea to you to-day to consider that the original decision to order the CRD to plan for land based sewage treatment was a political decision not a decision based on good science. You have heard from Dr Jay Cullen that the reasons given in your recent letter to me of April 28th about sustainability (annual flow in the Strait of Juan de Fuca),  seabed metal contamination, the MacDonald and Smorong report and the proposed wastewater systems effluent regulations just do not hold up to scrutiny by a credible scientist.

As a veterinarian you are aware of how scientific and evidence based decisions are made for animal health, similar to human health.  Decisions are made after careful risk assessments.

What we are experiencing in Canada and here in BC is the “one size fits all” approach that the US EPA originally adopted in Environmental policy but then in the 1980s modified it saying “its time we aimed before we shoot”.   It is like saying every community has to have so many snow ploughs in Canada or even every dog should be spayed or have its tail clipped. 

The documents supporting the “one size fits all” approach in the proposed Federal regulation included a “cost-benefit” analysis.

This 58 page report is titled “Cost-benefit analysis for cleaner source water”.

It is stated that “the policy objective becomes to not only improve surface water quality per se but rather to improve surface water quality in an economically efficient manner”. The report “ is designed to aid wastewater managers at all levels of government to better understand, estimate and communicate the benefits and costs of investments in sewage treatment.”  The communication of the benefits for Victoria has not occurred and there appear to be none for our unique situation.

The report was based on studies conducted in Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick. It is suggested in the report that there would be an increase in real estate values, an increase in fisheries, an improvement in public health and an increase in recreational opportunities.  None of these apply to Victoria’s situation due to the unique receiving environment. 

The regulators have chosen the quantity of BOD and TSS to regulate but in the Ocean environment off Victoria the vigorous mixing and oxygenation by tidal energy eliminates any potential for adverse effects and an increase in BOD and TSS potentially benefits the environment. 

There is no question that there are some chemicals of concern, albeit in very small quantities, in municipal sewage but the best solution to removing them is the source control program and further study of what is known about the effects in the marine environment and what happens to each chemical of concern in a sewage treatment plant and in the disposal of the sludge or bio-solids created by the sewage treatment process. 

There is still time to push back, make a political decision, and say the decision to build land based sewage treatment plants for Victoria is worth reviewing. The plants will cost more than $782 Million to build and $14.2 Million per year to operate. This is a huge cost.

As you know there have been many studies and reports. In particular the 1994 Shared Marine Waters of British Columbia and Washington Scientific Assessment report to Washington State and British Columbia and  the National Research Council’s (NRC) 1993 report “Managing Wastewater in Coastal Urban Areas” National Academy of Science, Washington. D.C. are the most comprehensive and support how Victoria is currently treating its screened liquid waste through deep sea outfalls. 

Here are some questions that I urge you and your Cabinet colleagues to make a political decision and have independently reviewed:

·         Are the Federal (and Provincial) regulated measures of TSS and BOD appropriate for application for the marine discharges through the two deep sea outfalls off Victoria?
·         Should not a risk assessment be carried out on this receiving environment prior to applying the proposed regulation?
·         What would be the finding of a triple bottom line assessment (Economic, Environmental and Social) comparing the present liquid waste disposal off Victoria with the impact of land based sewage treatment plants?
·         What will be the cost benefit of building and operating land based sewage treatment plants for the Capital Regional District’s core area? 
·         What will be the overall impact on the environment (marine, terrestrial and global) of building land based sewage treatment plants for the CRD’s Core area?
·         What are the priorities for Marine environmental protection for the waters off Victoria and beyond?

Thank you for your consideration.

Dr Shaun Peck
Medical Health Officer for the CRD 1989-1995
Deputy Provincial Health Officer 1995-2004.



Controversial project would see large-scale application to local farmland

Monday Magazine (Victoria, BC)
The Capital Regional District and Saanich Peninsula Waste Commission may be embarking on a controversial project that no amount of perfume will be able to cover — unless residents raise a stink first.

Sewage treatment is back in the news again, but this time the CRD will decide whether to abandon a ban on the land application of biosolids and support a plan put forward by the Saanich Peninsula Waste Commission to apply sewage waste to local farms — a move that few grocery stores in the country will support, and one that residents have tuned out until it’s almost too late.

“What nobody, including CRD staff, is saying is that there is no risk to using biosolids. Research shows harms ranging from small to significant, and I worry about what that means for public health and our environment,” says CRD director and city councillor Philippe Lucas. “This is really the CRD deciding the fate of local farmlands and food security.”

Currently, the CRD offers all local area residents a Class-A biosolids-based “soil enhancer” compound called PenGrow — in lay terms, human and industrial sewage sludge. The fertilizer has been offered for free for the last 10 years, as part of the Saanich Peninsula Wastewater Commission’s “beneficial reuse strategy” for 10 per cent of the waste they process. Although the commission operates at arms length from the CRD, the biosolid fertilizer is promoted by and takes place on CRD property at Hartland Landfill. Despite a CRD ban on the land application in November 2009, last month the Saanich Peninsula Wastewater Commission passed a motion to begin a pilot project that would see large-scale biosolid application to local farmland.

“Here’s what farmers weren’t told at the onset of this project: every major grocery store chain in B.C. has a ban on produce fertilized with biosolids. There is no sellability on this project and we’re leading farmers down a dead end road,” Lucas says, adding that the move could even make the CRD and local farmers vulnerable to lawsuits. “At a time when local agriculture and food security are of top priority to farmers and residents of the Island, this is a nightmare and it’s moving us in a horrible direction.”

The CRD has been marketing this biosolid waste with a stamp of approval from the B.C. Organic Matter Recycling Regulation (OMRR), which governs the production, quality and land application of certain types of organic matter. However, Lucas points out that this is easily confused with the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), which lists materials approved for organic use in the U.S.

The kicker: no materials grown with biosolids can be certified as organic — it’s forbidden by all current regulations governing organic certification, and most grocery stores in the country will reject biosolid-grown products as studies have shown that even Class-A biosolids can still contain toxic chemicals, carcinogens, heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and pharmaceutical agents.

“What’s important to remember is that there are risks and benefits to using biosolids,” says Glenn Harris, senior manager of environmental protection for the CRD, and lead technical agent on the project. “This is one local and cheap alternative to importing chemicals that can replace nitrogen and phosphorous into the ground, which farmers are asking for. There is a perception of risk, and that’s legitimate, but then there’s risk management and evaluating the pros and cons to make a good decision.”

Lucas passed a motion at a recent CRD meeting to allow all members of the community, along with environmental and food security groups, to share their thoughts at the upcoming May 25 meeting. So far, the Island Chefs’ Collaborative, the Island Organic Producers Association and food security activists have asked to speak. Lucas hopes the CRD will take a firm stance against the land application of biosolids.

North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall says that her mind won’t be made up regarding the issue until she hears all sides of the argument. Lucas has been asked to bring in specific examples of scientific research, along with the credentials of those scientists doing the research.

“No one’s taking a position to say whether this will be good or bad because there are too many unknowns; this is just a pilot project,” Finall says. “One of the growing needs in our community is the amendment of soil for farm land.”

Other options for the disposal of biosolids have been considered, including sending the solids to fuel cement kilns.

“What’s so disturbing about this is that if one farmer decides to use PenGrow and his neighbour decides not to, what’s there to stop runoff, human and animal tracking, or wind dispersal from affecting both fields?” says Lucas. “We are one of the few places left in our province that has been untouched by the large-scale land application of biosolids; let’s keep it that way.”

- For those who want to get involved or sign the petition, visit or the “Biosolid Free B.C.” Facebook page. To speak at the 10 a.m. May 25 CRD meeting, sign up two days in advance via



Minutes from 24 April meeting, items #4 and #6 discuss biosolids application on food crop land:


ARESST: We know Dan MacDonald's work from his "MacDonald-Smorong" report that Minister Penner used to dictate the CRD sewage treatment plant. His submission to the Cohen Commission can now be found on the May 9 schedule webpage - a 15 MB pdf download. Don MacDonald, (BSc, RPBio) is executive director of Sustainable Fisheries Foundation, which cooperated with the Georgia Strait Alliance and Suzuki Foundation on a politically-orientated sewage-treatment survey of the 2008 CRD Councillor-candidates.


Globe and Mail
May. 11, 2011 

Sockeye salmon are exposed to a soup of chemicals in the Fraser River, and some of the ingredients are accumulating to potentially lethal levels in eggs, while others may be disrupting the sexual function of fish, according to a scientific review conducted for the Cohen Commission.

The study states that because of key data gaps, it is not possible to reach a definitive conclusion about exactly how the 200 contaminants identified in the river have affected the growth, survival rates or reproduction of salmon.

While it is unlikely that contaminants are “the sole cause” of sockeye population declines, the report says there is “a strong possibility that exposure to contaminants of concern, endocrine disrupting chemicals, and/or contaminants of emerging concern has contributed to the decline of sockeye salmon.”

The report, by McDonald Environmental Sciences Ltd., a Nanaimo-based research firm, identified numerous chemicals in surface waters and in bottom sediments that posed potential risks to sockeye, including nitrate, chloride, sulphate, arsenic, mercury and selenium.

It said some of the chemicals exceeded toxicity levels for fish and it noted that “water quality conditions have degraded over the past two decades.”

The report also says research done in 2001 and 2004 found some chemicals were concentrating in the eggs of sockeye at toxicity levels “associated with 30 per cent mortality of fish eggs.”

There were no studies to determine if eggs were in fact being damaged by chemicals, but the report says fish that had a long way to swim before they spawned, and thus had more time to accumulate chemicals, were at the greatest risk of having high concentrations in their eggs.

“These. . .results suggest that PCBs, PCDDs, and PCDFs could be adversely affecting sockeye salmon reproduction,” states the report.

Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) dibenzofurans (PCDFs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a group of dioxins typically formed through combustion, such as in commercial or municipal waste incineration and from burning fuels.

The study said selenium, a naturally occurring chemical element that can cause contamination when released in volume in wastewater, and another dioxin, 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD), were also found in sockeye eggs, representing “a potentially important factor influencing the status of sockeye salmon populations.”

The report said data on the bioaccumulation of toxic substances were limited and need further evaluation.

An array of metals, including aluminum, chromium, copper, iron and silver were found in bottom samples, but the contaminated sediments weren’t thought to be contributing to the decline of salmon because of limited interaction between fish and sediments.

One group of pollutants of concern were endocrine disrupting chemicals, which can affect growth, development and sexual reproduction.

Among the endocrine disrupting ingredients identified in the Fraser were industrial chemicals, pesticides, compounds with a carbon-metal bond, pharmaceuticals and “several estrogen-like compounds,” the report says.

It states that data are insufficient to evaluate the impact of endocrine-disrupting compounds, but notes reports from First Nation fishermen that salmon are smaller on average, increasingly have blotchy skin and of one male sockeye that had ovaries, are cause for concern.

“Such changes in salmon physiology are not unlike those that could occur in response to endocrine disrupting compounds and/or other contaminants,” the report states.

The report is one of several science studies ordered by the Cohen Commission, which was appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to investigate the decline of sockeye after only one million fish returned to spawn in 2009, when more than 10 million were expected.

The inquiry is headed by British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen, who is holding evidentiary hearings in Federal Court in Vancouver.



MAY 11, 2011

Costs of the light-rail transit proposal will be debated at some length, much the same as the sewage treatment debate. On the basis of the 2,768 in favour versus the 203 votes cast opposed in the 2008 Colwood municipal election referendum on LRT, I support the wishes of my constituents.

I have thought for a long time that some form of LRT between Langford and downtown Victoria is a good idea. However, I am also concerned whether Victoria has the population base to reasonably finance the costs of LRT without adding significantly to the property tax bill on top of increases for things such as sewage treatment.

Will a Victoria LRT system be unprofitable due to an insufficient population base that will only generate a small number of regular users?

I anticipate that the result will be the same experience as much larger jurisdictions which heavily subsidize their light rail transit. Therefore, and as acknowledged by a B.C. Transit official recently, Victorians have to understand this initiative will result in property tax increases for Greater Victoria ratepayers.

Therefore, as with sewage treatment, the pencils must be sharp to ensure best option at the cheapest price.

Ernest Robertson, councillor


Bill Cleverley
Times Colonist
May 15, 2011
Letters to editor:

Greater Victoria residents should be given a chance to vote this fall on whether they favour spending nearly $1 billion on building light rail, Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard said Saturday.

"I'm thinking we need a mandate from the citizens," Leonard said. "Clearly you wouldn't want to put a question to the citizens until you were clear what kind of [senior government] funding you have ... but if you could pull it together in time for November that would be no cost to find out if people want their property taxes increased hundreds of dollars for LRT."

The Victoria Regional Transit Commission, of which Leonard is a member, will be asked Tuesday to endorse the $950-million light rail plan between Victoria and Langford so that senior B.C. Transit staff can develop a business plan and explore funding options from senior governments.

Provided that is done by this fall, a non-binding vote could be held in each of the capital region's 13 municipalities in conjunction with November's municipal elections, Leonard said.

Given that B.C. Transit is a provincial government entity, an answer on provincial funding should not take too long, Leonard said.

"I find it curious when B.C. Transit management say, 'We need to find out what the provincial commitment is.' They are the provincial government," Leonard said.

"They are a provincial Crown corporation that have access to the minister and brief the minister on a regular basis. So they should know what the provincial funding is. ... So I think this should be turned around fairly quickly about what the provincial funding is."

Leonard said getting a commitment from the federal government is a different issue. "But even if you knew provincially what the funding is you could give citizens a better idea of what they are looking at," he said.

Such a vote would be a non-binding plebiscite but it would give the seven-member transit commission a better mandate to make a decision whether to move ahead, Leonard said.

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin, who also sits on the transit commission, said he would welcome a plebiscite on LRT. The project cannot move ahead without two thirds funding from senior governments, Fortin said. If that came through, he would campaign for a "yes" vote, he said. "I'd be very interested in having a plebiscite as part of it recognizing it's a substantive amount of money if we're going to spend $250 million," Fortin said. "I would be quite happy to get out there and campaign on behalf of the yes."

B.C. Transit analysis has found light rail to be the best option over conventional transit or rapid buses in dedicated lanes. But light rail is the most expensive to build.

Under the traditional transit funding formula without additional senior government grants, the cost would more than triple the average household transit levy, adding $265 a year to the $112 paid by a homeowner with a property assessed at $536,00. That levy would apply to the entire Capital Regional District.

Meanwhile, Leonard, who with a number of local politicians throughout the province is frustrated at the lack of local control over transit issues, is calling on Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom to have the Comptroller General conduct an audit of B.C. Transit, like the province did with B.C. Ferries and Translink.

Leonard earlier complained that a 30 per cent increase CRD residents face in the local property tax transit levy is largely down to the area having to assume debt for new buses bought for the Olympics.

"I really do believe we need improved transit and LRT in our region, but it has to have public confidence and I don't even have confidence in how the money is being spent, so I can't sell it to the public right now," Leonard said.