July 12, 2011

BIG PROJECT WATCHDOG TOO LAX, AUDIT SAYS (CRD sewage plant doesn't count)



NO agenda yet for a CALWMC meeting on 13 July but these two reports are now posted online that point to a 13 July CALWMC meeting.

Click to see reports:



CRD Board Agenda page 2 excerpt for 13 July meeting, 1:30pm, with attachment as background in the agenda package:


1. Motion to Protect Local Farmland and to Harmonize Sewage Treatment Strategies within the CRD – Director Lucas

• Whereas the CRD is committed to developing regional sewage treatment strategies that have the lowest impact on both the environment and public health, and the highest resource recovery potential;

And Whereas the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee has passed a motion banning the land application of biosolids in order to address legitimate public health and environmental concerns about the accumulation and dispersal of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and other Emerging Compounds of Concern (ECCs)1 on our land, in our food, and in the regional water table;

And Whereas protecting the “integrity of rural communities” and “regional green and blue spaces”, and managing “natural resources and environmental sustainability” are important and explicit goals and responsibilities of the CRD as outlined in the Regional Growth Strategy (http://tinyurl.com/65wdd8p), and “improving population health and regional food security” are noted as Priority Actions in the Capital Region Food and Health Action Plan

Be it so moved that the CRD will harmonize current and long‐term practices at all CRD‐ owned regional facilities and parks with the approved policies of the regional treatment strategy, including ending the production, storage and distribution of biosolids for land application at all CRD facilities and parks until technologies are put in place to effectively monitor and remove heavy metals, hydrocarbons, pharmaceuticals, and other Emerging Chemicals of Concern (ECCs); and

Be it further moved that the CRD does not support the application of biosolids on farmland in the CRD under any circumstances unless technologies are put in place to effectively monitor and remove heavy metals, hydrocarbons, pharmaceuticals, and other Emerging Chemicals of Concern, and let this policy be reflected in the upcoming Regional Sustainability Strategy.

(WP All) (WP means "weighted vote of participants")


ARESST: Doyle's report totally misses issue that the Environmental Assessment Act may allow project proponents to avoid any BCEAA oversight if optional reviews can be substituted and the worst example is that the CRD sewage plant project escapes BCEAA oversight because of legislation that allows a completely inadequate environmental review under the BC Municipal Sewage Regulation.

CBC Almanac's Mark Forsyth talks with Auditor General John Doyle and UVic's Environmental Law Centre's Calvin Sandborn about the Auditor General's critical report entitled An Audit of the Environmental Assessment Office's Oversight of Certified Projects, July 8, 2011.
Click here to download the podcastBIG PROJECT WATCHDOG TOO LAX, AUDIT SAYS (CRD sewage plant doesn't count) 
Environmental Assessment Office failing to watch for harm: report

Judith Lavoie
Times Colonist
Friday, July 08, 2011
Click here to send letter to editor

B.C.'s Environmental Assessment Office is failing to adequately monitor major projects such as mines, power plants and tourist resorts, says B.C. auditor general John Doyle.

In a highly critical report, released Thursday, Doyle said the EAO, which is supposed to provide oversight of major projects, cannot assure the public that it is guarding against harmful environmental impacts from projects that have been approved.

When an environmental assessment certificate is issued, the conditions should be measurable and enforceable, allowing staff to monitor the project for compliance, Doyle said.

"Because this does not happen consistently, the EAO cannot assure British Columbians that the conditions and commitments stated in the environmental assessment certificate are being met," he said.

"Adequate monitoring and enforcement of certified projects is not occurring and follow-up evaluations are not being conducted. We also found that information currently being provided to the public is not sufficient to ensure accountability."

The audit found that most companies had little, if any communication with the EAO once a certificate was issued.

The report made six recommendations to improve the system, including ensuring commitments are clearly set out and enforceable, development of a compliance and enforcement program, evaluations to determine whether potential adverse effects are being avoided or mitigated, and improved accountability.

All recommendations were accepted by the government and some improvements have already been made, Doyle said.

"I am encouraged that, during the course of our audit, the EAO introduced some key measures to address some of the noted deficiencies," he said.

NDP environment critic Rob Fleming said the lack of oversight is alarming.

Staff cuts, deregulation and government's ideological reliance on self-reporting without inspections have left the environment without protection, Fleming said.

"Standards are utterly meaningless without monitoring and enforcement," he said.

Fleming also finds it alarming that the EAO does not formally track or pursue complaints about the effect projects are having on the environment.

"They are failing to listen when residents, communities and First Nations raise concerns about these projects," he said.

Sierra Club B.C. executive director George Heyman called for an EAO overhaul. "We've been worried for a long time about the lack of environmental oversight in this province.

This report confirms that the situation is worse than we suspected."

Among projects on Vancouver Island approved by the EAO since 1995 are Cape Scott Wind Farm and Holberg Wind Energy, Chemainus Wells Water Supply bringing a new water supply to North Cowichan, Elk Falls Cogeneration near Campbell River, Orca Sand and Gravel near Port McNeil, Royal Bay evaluation in Colwood, Port Alberni Cogeneration and a 1995 salmon aquaculture review in Broughton Archipelago.

The controversial Raven Underground Coal Project near Fanny Bay is undergoing a joint provincial and federal environmental assessment.

Since 1995, the EAO, with 55 staff and a budget of $8.75 million, has assessed 219 projects. Of those, 115 have been approved, 32 are under review and one - a proposed resort community near Whistler - has been refused. The remainder were withdrawn, are temporarily inactive or an assessment was deemed unnecessary.

B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake's office said he plans to meet with Doyle before commenting.



John Newcomb
Times Colonist
July 12, 2011

Re: "Big-project watchdog too lax, audit says," July 8

The Environmental Assessment Act may allow project proponents to avoid any B.C. Environmental Assessment Office oversight if optional reviews can be substituted. The big Capital Regional District sewage plant project escapes BCEAA oversight because legislation that allows a completely inadequate environmental review under the municipal sewage regulation.

The regulation was set up to allow villages and towns to build small sewage treatment plants, but it is completely inadequate where the project is much larger and involves complex mitigation of environmental and social impacts on large populations, like the CRD's planned sewage plant project.

You can get some idea of just how inadequate the regulation is by looking at how short the guidelines are at only 20 pages, compared to about 200 pages for the BCEAA guidelines. The regulation also makes no provision for public participation in the review process.

John Newcomb