June 23, 2011




Karen James
Op-ed article
Saanich News (this is a scan as currently only in print edition not online)
22 June 2011, page A11

Re: Sewage forum comes too late (Our View, June 1) 

Yes, $22 million has been spent on the Sewage issue, but this is a drop in the EMjoleet for the as yet unjustified billion-dollar project. That money could have fortified our well-established source control programs.

We, the taxpayers, have been told by our politicians, that our current marine-based sewage treatment system is effectively broke. Yet expert scientists from both sides of the Strait of Juan de Fuca are unanimous that this is far from the truth. The more one learns about the unique marine environment that exists from Victoria to Port Renfrew, the more one challenges the costly political decision to move away from the natural sewage treatment system supported by this marine environment.

Sewage needs to be placed in contact with bacteria for digestion. This can occur in a natural or a man-made environment. 

We are blessed with an existing natural setting for optimal natural sewage treatment. The deliberate combination of primary screening, engineered long outfalls and the optimal receiving marine environment have been providing us with reliable, inexpensive secondary treatment.

Comprehensive monitoring has conclusively shown this practice has minimal negative and considerable positive impact to the marine environment. 

Victoria should be the envy of many Canadian cities for its existing, environmentally sound, natural sewage treatment. Why are we not celebrating this green facet of our city? The existence of this natural system has been money in our jeans for decades, it means we have the ability to direct our taxes to truly essential projects.

Why has it been so difficult for the public to get information directly from the CRD about the way our current marine-based system is working? 

The CRD released a 10-minute video in April 2009 - a mere 18 seconds of it explains our existing treatment system. It shows primary screens and tells us the screening residues are trucked to Hartland landfill. That's it.

What's missing is any description of the natural digestion process that occurs in the fully oxygenated, tidal environment. There is no discussion whatsoever of the unique conditions that make our receiving environment so favourable for proven long outfall engineering. The public who view this video, continue to be misled by omission of information.
CRD-sponsored community open houses rarely explore details about the performance of the current system. Annual reports from the marine monitoring advisory group, posted on the CRD website, are filled with mind-numbing technical terms that seem alarming without helpful contextual information.

The recent forum hosted by the Esquimalt Residents Association provided 140 minutes of open discussion about the natural treatment process. A senior scientist from the CRD was invited to join the speaker's panel, but could not get internal clearance to do so. 

How can politicians reasonably expect us to endorse the current costly move toward land-based treatment without showing us how broke the status quo system is? There has still been no cost-benefit analysis to justify that land-based secondary treatment is worth doing. 

Our core area liquid waste management committee members are either ignorant or timid about defending the enviable status quo practice. 

It is not too late to re-examine the decision to turn away from our natural treatment. We should remember this during the upcoming municipal elections.

Karen James,
forum chairman,
Esquimalt Residents Association



Tim Morrison
Esquimalt Review
18 June 2011

CRD residents gather for Sewage Forum. May 26, 2011.

A very important regional forum recently took place in Victoria entitled “Understanding Wastewater Management in Victoria – Do we have the RIGHT plan?” The lead organizing of the forum was done by Esquimalt community volunteer Karen James, who serves on the Esquimalt Residents Association (ERA) Board of Directors.  James, along with other ERA Board members reached out to resident, community, and neighbourhood associations from all over Greater Victoria resulting in a highly successful grassroots partnership towards a better understanding of Capital Regional District sewage treatment.

Both Esquimalt Municipal Council and the Esquimalt Residents Association are opposed to the Capital Regional District’s plan to locate the region’s sewage treatment at a new $800-million facility at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt. Scientific experts, including engineers and environmentalists alike, have decried the CRD’s plan as a short-sighted boondoggle that will accomplish little while adding a lot to everyone’s property tax bills.

While Esquimalt is firmly opposed to the plan for admirable reasons (most notably for defending the wise use of taxpayer money and the best protection of our environment), Esquimalt alone cannot overcome the CRD’s mad dash to steam roll the project into a complete calamity to the detriment of all the region’s residents.  

“This is an important regional issue, demanding a broad, grassroots level of engagement,” says Karen James. “It’s the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken in Victoria. It will add several hundred dollars to everyone’s tax bill for years and years. It is important to get it right! If we are to influence our municipal councils, and through them the CRD, we need to fully understand the options.”

So, Karen James did just that. She spent countless hours over the past six months networking with respected scientific experts in the fields of health, marine biology, oceanography, economics, environment, infrastructure engineering, and community planning. (The credentials of these experts can be viewed by clicking here). At the same time, James was also busy reaching out to the grassroots community leaders in neighbourhoods throughout Greater Victoria. She then realized she needed to get the experts together in the same room with the region’s residents. The result was a major success in citizen engagement and education.

Forum organizer Karen James welcomes grassroots residents.

“For the first time, citizens across Victoria had the opportunity to collectively explore more information about wastewater management from experts who have no commercial stake in the outcome, apart from being reliable taxpayers like the rest of us,” said James.

Through an open, interactive format, the panel of respected scientists shared their knowledge on such topics as:

 Victoria’s marine environment and the impact of our current and proposed systems
 Human health concerns with the current and proposed systems
 Resource recovery opportunities and sludge disposal concerns
 The effect of present and proposed regulations
 Economic and social impacts including independent cost-benefit analysis
 Specific recommendations regarding the best environmental bang for the buck.

Despite diverse backgrounds, the expert panel shared a common assessment that the CRD plan on sewage treatment is severely lacking in the smart use of technology and taxpayer money.

It is important to note the CRD was formally invited to participate and to explain the science behind their decision-making and the merits of their plan, but they opted not to participate. While the panel seat reserved for the CRD remained silent, their absence spoke volumes about their disrespect for taxpayers as well as the level of confidence in their plan. We are left to agree with the independent experts that the CRD plan is not the right plan.

Now, it is up to Greater Victoria residents to take that message to their municipal, provincial, and federal politicians who control the funding for the project. CRD Sewage Treatment is a high-stakes project, jointly funded by all three levels of government. Decisions need to be based on long-term smart policy, not short-term politics. Before delivering a billion dollars of our hard-earned money towards sewage treatment, our politicians at all levels need to be better informed of the science related to Greater Victoria’s current sewage treatment and the best steps forward for enhancing that system.

Start by watching this very informative video by clicking this link here: Greater Victoria Sewage Treatment Video. Then, forward this video to your friends and colleagues throughout Greater Victoria. Forward it to your elected officials including municipal councils, provincial MLAs, and federal MPs. Together, we can become smarter with our sewage treatment and with our tax dollars. It’s not too late to save our future! It’s not too late to flush the CRD Sewage Plan down the toilet.


ARESST: The CRD's Environmental Sustainability Committee will forward the report below to both the Solid Waste Committee and the sewage committee. However, the report makes no mention of trying to mix sewage sludge with solid waste to incinerate them at the same time, perhaps because a sludge-solid waste mix would devalue energy content of the mix over the solid waste component.


Frank Stanford
CFAX 1070
June 22 2011

A consultant says it would be feasible for the Capital Region District to develop a facility to burn garbage, in co-operation with the Cowichan Valley and Nanaimo Regional Districts.

The CRD and Nanaimo are looking ahead to the day their landfills are full. Cowichan already has to ship its garbage elsewhere.

The Capital Region's Environment Committee received a feasibility report today that says a "waste-to-energy" facility could be built in any one of the three regions, to accept garbage from all three.

The Committee voted to include the report in its ongoing review of solid waste management options...although one director, Phillipe Lucas, wondered why they don't get on with it more quickly...

"I would be eager to see opportunities to speed up our process on this.  I know that we need to do this within the context of all of our other efforts around, umm, disposing of our waste, but this is a very convincing argument, that we should be moving on this sooner rather than later"

Board Chair Geoff Young says he was surprised to learn how much landfilling would still be required after burning...the residue will be about 15 to 20 per cent of the original tonnage.



ARESST: Excerpt from news story below: "Orr says the quantity produced in the Saanich Peninsula plant is small, compared to what will be coming when the greater Victoria plant is up and running."


Frank Stanford
CFAX 1070
June 17 2011

Sludge produced by the Saanich Peninsula sewage treatment plant will be landfilled at the Hartland Avenue dump, at least for the short term future.

The Peninsula Wastewater Commission has decided not to proceed with a proposed pilot project to make bio-solids available for use as fertilizer...in light of a recent resolution by the CRD Board against the practice. 

Commission Chair Geoff Orr says it does leave the Peninsula without a long term plan for disposal of its bio-solids. The core area plan is to ship the residue, once it starts accumulating, to the lower mainland, where there is demand for combustible products to fuel cement kilns. 

Orr says the quantity produced in the Saanich Peninsula plant is small, compared to what will be coming when the greater Victoria plant is up and running.


ARESST: Excerpt from letter below: Why is Mayor Leonard suddenly so interested in what the residents have to say about an LRT system, yet did not jump up and insist on the same thing for the billion dollar sewage system, which will also significantly increase property taxes? What is the reason he is being selective now?


Saanich News
June 02, 2011 (almost missed this one!)

Greater Victoria residents should have a say before their property taxes increase to pay for a nearly $1-billion light-rail project, says Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard.

With this statement, Mayor Leonard is being disingenuous in the extreme. Is he that disinterested in the progress of the CRD?  Does he refuse to believe the stats which plainly show that more roads and interchanges do not ease traffic congestion? Or is he so out of touch with the day-to-day welfare of the people of the municipality he is in charge of, that he acts as “boogeyman” by throwing out such inflammatory words as “billion dollar” and “tax increase”, without showing that this will happen anyway, just through the maintenance of the broken transportation system we now have?

Most importantly, LRTs continue to be built because they typically sustain and strengthen communities while enhancing positive economic development.

Why is Mayor Leonard suddenly so interested in what the residents have to say about an LRT system, yet did not jump up and insist on the same thing for the billion dollar sewage system, which will also significantly increase property taxes? What is the reason he is being selective now?

Richard Weatherill


ARESST: It was the Greater Victoria Harbour Association that objected to siting the sewage plant at McLoughlin Point, and Victoria-Esquimalt Harbour Society shares that point of view as well.


Victoria News
June 22, 2011 

The Victoria-Esquimalt Harbour Society has followed the Official Community Plan process with expectations of the recognition and protection of the economic vitality of the Victoria harbour. The society has participated directly as a stakeholder having three sessions with OCP planners providing direct input into the process. Unfortunately our concerns have not been addressed in the current draft plan.

The Victoria harbour is the lifeblood of this city. Marine related activities account for over $1 billion in economic activity and are integrally linked to all other economic sectors. It is safe to say that without the harbour, this city (and region) may not exist.

The current draft OCP recognizes the existence of the harbour as an element making up a portion of the city. The word harbour appears 66 times in the plan which contains generic statements to describe harbour planning including working harbour, encourage a mix of uses, maintain and update the harbour plan, and implement the harbour pathway. Within the plan the harbour continues to be treated in a fragmented manner with no protection for the unique connection between water and land.

The city is currently embarking not only upon a new Official Community Plan, but also an economic plan. The aims of the economic plan are to add jobs, increase diversity, strengthen the base sectors, and retain existing employment in ship repair and related industries. To achieve these aims the economic sustainability and functionality of the harbour must be protected.

The VEHS submits that the city add an overriding concept to the Urban Place Guidelines that state that any potential use or change to harbour-adjacent land require commercial access to the water.  Additionally, the harbour must be planned and managed as a holistic resource. Harbour planning needs its own section in the OCP where city policies are articulated and the resource is managed in a unified approach.

It’s not too late. The city has a real opportunity to put a plan in place that will see the harbour continue to grow as one of the most distinct and important elements of Victoria. The risks of not acting now cannot be understated. Once the economic link between water and land is gone, it is gone forever.

The VEHS hopes the city will realize the importance of this issue and act quickly on our recommendations. We are available at any time for consultation.

Lyle Soetaert
Victoria-Esquimalt Harbour Society


ARESST: While Victoria's natural marine-based sewage treatment has come in for some critical comment by eco-activists (not so much from scientists), a very large proportion of the sewage effluent is ammonia - which on the scale appears to be quite basic. 


From Baja to BC, it's shown up near the ocean's surface sooner than we thought.

Jennifer Langston,
16 June 2011,

Five years ago, many scientists probably thought they'd never see large pools of corrosive water near the ocean's surface in their lifetimes.
Basic chemistry told them that as the oceans absorbed more carbon dioxide pollution from cars and smokestacks and industrial processes, seawater would become more acidic. Eventually, the oceans could become corrosive enough to kill vulnerable forms of sea life like corals and shellfish and plankton.
But scientists believed the effects of this chemical process -- called ocean acidification -- would be confined to deep offshore ocean waters for some time. Models projected it would take decades before corrosive waters reached the shallow continental shelf off the Pacific Coast, where an abundance of sea life lives.
Until a group of oceanographers started hunting for it.
"What we found, of course, was that it was everywhere we looked," said Richard Feely, an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, Washington, who was one of the first to recognize the trouble ahead.
The researchers found surprisingly acidic water -- corrosive enough to begin dissolving the shells and skeletal structures of some marine creatures -- at relatively shallow depths all along the west coast, from British Columbia to the tip of Baja California. Researchers hadn't expected to see that extent of ocean acidification until the middle to the end of this century. But in a seasonal process called "upwelling," summertime winds pushed surface waters offshore and pulled deeper, more acidic water towards the continental shelf, shorelines, and beaches.
Or as one Oregon State University marine ecologist put it: "The future of ocean acidification is already here off the Oregon Coast."
Effects are bizarre to beneficial
Acidifying water poses a threat to marine animals, especially ones that need calcium carbonate to build shells and skeletons. In the Northwest, that includes everything from geoducks, a giant clam that supports one of the region's most valuable commercial fisheries, to krill, the tiny shrimplike creatures that give salmon flesh its distinctive pink color and feed rockfish, seals, and whales.
Other effects of low pH water on marine creatures range from lethal to bizarre to beneficial. In laboratory studies, clownfish exposed to more acidic seawater have lost their sense of smell and ability to find habitat, Antarctic krill embryos failed to hatch, northern abalone larvae from British Columbia died, squid didn't want to move, and some eelgrass grew more abundantly.
Then, the oceanographers announced another startling discovery last summer. On the surface of Puget Sound, they found waters with a pH of 7.7, roughly on par with the most acidified waters found in the earlier study along the West Coast. In the deeper waters of southern Hood Canal, the acidity level was even higher -- the pH plummeted to 7.4.
It was some of the most corrosive seawater recorded anywhere on Earth.
Hotspots of acidification
To put those numbers in context, the pH scale runs from 0 to 14, with pure distilled water a perfectly neutral 7. Anything below 7 -- battery acid, coffee and orange juice -- is acidic, and anything above 7 -- eggs, toothpaste, and bleach -- is basic, or alkaline.
Seawater is not an acid, because it measures above 7 on the scale. But as the world's oceans have absorbed more carbon dioxide pollution, those waters have moved towards the acidic end of that scale. Since the Industrial Revolution, the average pH of surface seawater around the globe has dropped from 8.2 to 8.1.
That small numerical change may not seem like a big deal, until you realize that the pH scale is logarithmic. Each whole number represents a tenfold increase in acidity or alkalinity. For example, a lime with a pH value of 2 is 100 times more acidic than a tomato with a pH of 4.
So the world's oceans on average have already grown 30 per cent more acidic since we began burning fossil fuels in abundance. But there are also geographic hotspots for ocean acidification, where currents and chemistry combine to make the problem worse. For example, the 7.7 pH level already found at the surface of Puget Sound (and near the surface along the west coast) is roughly 100 per cent more acidic than the current worldwide average.
The 7.4 pH water found deeper in Hood Canal, part of Puget Sound, is 340 percent more acidic.
Not just a coral reef problem
Summertime conditions in Hood Canal routinely kill fish, octopus, crabs, shrimp and other creatures by the hundreds or thousands. Water becomes more acidic, and oxygen levels drop so low that fish cluster near the surface and eels visibly pant.
The corrosive waters lurking in Hood Canal aren't the result of ocean acidification alone. Natural processes and other forms of pollution also contribute to low pH values there. For instance, Hood Canal is naturally rich in phytoplankton. When it dies and decomposes, it sinks and releases carbon dioxide. That process lowers the pH and also robs the water of oxygen that everything from fish to spot prawns to eels need to survive. As with many estuaries, nutrient-rich pollution from lawns, septic tanks and farm fields makes the problem worse.
So how much of the low pH conditions in Hood Canal can be attributed to ocean acidification versus other processes? Researchers estimate acidification is to blame for 24 to 49 per cent of the drop in pH in the deep waters of Hood Canal, compared to pre-industrial levels.
If carbon dioxide pollution continues, they expect ocean acidification to become an even more powerful factor, accounting for 49 to 82 per cent of the pH decrease in Puget Sound waters. That means the manmade carbon dioxide emissions from cars and smokestacks will have a growing influence on how acidic that water becomes in the future.
Already, seawater corrosive enough to dissolve shellfish larvae is showing up within spitting distance of beaches and commercial hatcheries. As NOAA oceanographer Feely puts it: "Our decision to work in Puget Sound was to say, 'Don't think of ocean acidification as an open ocean problem or a coral reef problem.' Start thinking about it as a multi-stressor problem in estuaries where you have combined effects of increased nutrients and increased carbon dioxide."
And do the low pH levels found in Puget Sound mean that animals there have grown accustomed to more acidic waters and are possibly better prepared to adapt to the changes ahead? Or that creatures in this low-pH environment are already so stressed that they'll be among the first to wink out?
This is the big question we as scientists have to address. We don't know.
In our next article, we'll visit a lab where local scientists are working to figure that out. 
- Jennifer Langston is a researcher for the Sightline Institute in Seattle, Washington, and edits their Sightline Daily online publication. Her series, "Northwest Ocean Acidification: The Other Cost of Carbon Pollution," is published on The Tyee with permission from Sightline. Previously, Langston worked at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and other papers in Washington and Idaho. Find her email here.


Amy Smart
Times Colonist
June 23, 2011

A record number of participants is projected to take part in Hands Across the Sand this weekend - in a show of appreciation for our oceans, marine life and coastlines.

Organizers expect 1,000 participants to form a line and join hands for 15 minutes at Willows Beach on Saturday.

Four hundred handholders participated last year, as part of an international solidarity movement inspired by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Interested handholders are invited to gather at 11 a.m.

The first Hands Across the Sand was held last year in Florida and quickly spread. More than 1,000 events were held in 43 countries on June 26, 2010.

"There has been a huge response already this year," organizer Lisa Cole said in a statement, citing the nuclear crisis in Japan and the fuel spill on the Malahat in April as environmental catastrophes that have drawn public attention.

"People are realizing how vital it is for us to make the shift from toxic to clean, renewable energy sources right now - and this event is a step in that direction."

The Victoria Sierra Club and the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association endorse the event.

Search for "Hands Across the Sands - Victoria, B.C." to join the Facebook page.

For more information on the global event, visit http://www.handsacrossthesand.com/