July 20, 2011


Next CALWMC meeting is 14 September.



Kim Westad
Times Colonist
July 17, 2011
Click here to send letter to editor: letters@timescolonist.com

The Capital Regional District has banned the use of biosolids on farmland.

Victoria Coun. Philippe Lucas, who made the motion, said the ban will protect food security in the region.

Using biosolids - the fancy name for the sludge left over after sewage goes through secondary treatment - as fertilizer is controversial. Some countries have banned its use, but others have not. There is concern over products left in the biosolids, such as pharmaceuticals, medications, health and beauty products and chemical house cleaning products.

"[Sludge] has been deemed too toxic to continue to distribute into the oceans, yet a possible disposal method being considered is to take concentrated waste and use it on farmland," said Ruby Commandeur, who runs an organic farm in North Saanich. "Are we doing this to benefit farming or to have a cheaper disposal method for sludge?"

The board voted in favour of banning the use of biosolids immediately.

The Saanich Peninsula Wastewater Commission had planned a pilot project to use biosolids on agricultural land. However, that has been put on hold.

"This has been a very difficult issue for us as a commission," said North Saanich councillor Cairine Green. "We have no intention of putting anything on any land. We will, I'm sure, defer to the decisions of the CRD board."

But that still leaves the issue of what will be done with sludge, and where farmers can get needed fertilizer for their crops.

"Do we burn it? That puts ashes with these products in them into the air for all to breathe," said Jack Mar, Central Saanich mayor and a farmer. kwestad@timescolonist.com


Mike De Souza, 
Postmedia News 
Vancouver Sun
July 19, 2011
Click here to send letter to Vancouver Sun: sunletters@vancouversun.com

The federal government is behind schedule in delivering promised regulations to crack down on water pollution from municipal sewage systems, newly released briefing notes prepared for Environment Minister Peter Kent have revealed.

But a spokeswoman for the minister explained that the government is proceeding carefully with consultations to ensure communities can properly protect both their economic and environmental interests as they comply with regulations that would require multi-billion dollar investments across the country.

The briefing notes said that the department had received nearly 200 submissions from municipalities and other stakeholders regarding the regulations which would target an estimated 150-billion litres of sewage released every year into Canada's waterways.

"We're taking the necessary time to process what we heard," said Kent's spokeswoman Melissa Lantsman, in an interview. "It's important that we get (the details) right the first time . . . (and) that they provide time for municipalities and communities to meet the baseline standards."

She said the government is aiming to introduce final regulations to crack down on municipal systems by late 2011, more than a year after draft regulations were introduced in March 2010, and behind the schedule set out in briefing notes from Environment Canada bureaucrats delivered to Kent when he took over the environment portfolio in January. The officials said in the briefing notes that the department was "targeting" the spring of 2011 to publish the final regulations.

"Wastewater effluent represents one of the largest sources of pollution, by volume, in Canadian waters," said the briefing notes, released through access to information legislation following a request by the Pembina Institute, an Alberta-based environmental policy research group.

The briefing notes also highlighted numerous impacts of the pollution, domestically and internationally, observed for over 20 years such as negative effects on drinking water, swimming, fish and wildlife populations, as well as commercial fishing industries.

"As an example, wastewater effluent can limit the full potential of the Canadian shellfish industry, an industry worth $1.5 billion per year, by contributing to the closure of harvesting areas."

Kent was also told that the standards would allow Canada to catch up to other jurisdictions such as the European Union and the United States, which has required secondary treatment of wastewater since the 1970s. In the case of the latter, the briefing notes said the new regulations would "enhance co-ordination between Canada and the U.S. with respect to transboundary water quality."

"This would be particularly true in the Great Lakes where both Canada and the U.S. are party to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, which includes commitments for both parties to co-operate on the clean up of industrial effluent and wastewater effluent."

Environment Canada estimated in previously released briefing notes from 2006 that cities would need up to $20 billion over two decades to bring municipal wastewater systems up to standard to address threats to environmental and human health, but it now estimates the price tag of its regulations at about $10 to $13 billion over 30 years.

The federal government has indicated it would give cities with systems considered to be at high risk about 10 years to meet the regulations, while others at lower levels of risk would have 20 or 30 years to bring their system up to the new standard.

But the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has also previously warned the government that new standards could translate into property tax hikes, if there is no new funding from the federal and provincial governments.

"I think what we need to keep in mind is that municipalities in general are facing an infrastructure deficit and challenges in terms of paying for the country's infrastructure, whether it's repairing the existing infrastructure or putting new infrastructure in place as the result of a new requirement," said Berry Vrbanovic, president of the federation and a city councillor from Kitchener, Ont.

"So anything along those lines is going to require that all orders of government pay their share of any infrastructure work that happens."

Some critics have suggested that the federal government's plan has failed to address other sources of water pollution that put the population at risk such as aging septic tanks in rural Canadian communities without sewage systems.

Scott Pearce, mayor of Gore, Que., a small town between Ottawa and Montreal, has unsuccessfully urged the government to also cover the cost of low-interest loans to help rural Canadians and cottage owners replace aging septic tanks.

Pearce, a former Conservative candidate from 2008, said he raised the issue with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who previously held the infrastructure and environment portfolios, and others in government. But he said he was told by both federal and provincial officials that they are reluctant to offer a program that would appear to be targeting "rich Canadians," who own cottages.

"We're not all millionaires with $3-million cottages," said Pearce. "I've got people in our region here (and for them) it's not much more than a shack that they live in."

He noted that a recent study in his region concluded that about 40 per cent of households needed to upgrade septic tanks that are potentially contaminating local lakes and rivers.

"If your neighbours don't have the funds, you're still swimming in other people's urine and feces," he said. "So you could be a millionaire but that's not going to help you."

A federal report on water and wastewater systems released this month also prompted Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister John Duncan to acknowledge a "serious challenge" with much work to be done to address the problem.

Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett said at a news conference on Tuesday that the government must step in with full funding and a comprehensive plan to upgrade the infrastructure, noting that many communities have water or sewage services considered to be at high risk.

"Regulation without improved capacity and legislation without appropriate funding will not produce better outcomes for the quality of First Nations water and wastewater systems," she said.



Seattle: Millions of dollars worth of Brightwater project material deemed unusable

KING 5 News
July 18, 2011 

This week workers hope to complete the 13-mile tunnel that is part of the new, nearly $2 billion Brightwater sewage treatment plant.  The tunnel will house sewage lines coming to the plant and a line that carries treated water to the Puget Sound.

But the KING 5 Investigators have found something that likely won't be in the press release.

They’ve discovered that millions of dollars in material purchased for the project might as well go down the sewer pipe.

King County paid $2.4 million for concrete tunnel liners that the project manager acknowledges are no longer needed for the job. The liners are useless after an unexpected change in the project’s plans last year.

“The challenge for us has been the completion of the central tunnel.  That has delayed us a bit," said Gunars Sreibers, Brightwater’s project manager.

How did it happen?

Deep underground in the central part of the tunnel, one of the machines boring the tunnel got stuck in the dirt and rock.
"It was to the point where the contractor really had to stop mining," said Sreibers.

With one tunneling machine stuck, King County decided to use one of the job's other tunneling machines to complete the final two mile section.

There was one problem though.  That machine bores a tunnel nearly a foot-and-a-half smaller in diameter than the one it replaced.  That means the custom-made concrete tunnel liners won't fit in the smaller tunnel and aren't usable for any other type of project.

The liners that were once part of the county's grand sewer plan are going down the drain themselves, in a manner of speaking.

Over the next few weeks heavy machinery is scrapping or recycling nearly two miles of tunnel liner.

Project managers call it a small cost compared to other more expensive solutions to fixing the stuck tunneling machine.
“I think overall when you look at large projects of this complexity and scope I think this project has gone very well," said Sreibers.

"I'm shocked, but I'm not surprised,” said former State Rep. Toby Nixon.  “It's just another of many examples where Brightwater has been a wasteful project.”

Nixon is a long-time critic of the cost and complexity of the Brightwater plant. He says the county is to blame for this and other costly expenses because it didn't comprehend the tunnel route's soil conditions.

"I don't think they understood what the problems were going to be before they got started,” said Nixon.  “That's evidenced by the fact they had multiple cave-ins where people's homes and businesses have been damaged by the tunneling underneath"

Footing the bill

So who pays for the $2.4 million in concrete?  It may be ratepayers.  That's being decided in a hard fought lawsuit between the contractor and King County.  The tunnel liners are part of $200 million in disputed costs between the contractor, Vinci Parsons Frontier-Kemper, and the county.

The stakes are high for ratepayers who will have to wait until the sun sets on the legal fight to see how it will affect their monthly bill.

Brightwater will start processing sewage well before the main tunnel is fully completed.  A public grand opening is scheduled for September.  The main tunnel should be operational by the middle of next year, which is one year behind schedule.
Click here for more information about the tunnel liner problems:


Vancouver: "Local government: Metro Van admits big tax hike coming"
Taxpayers in Langley and throughout the Lower Mainland are going to feel a bigger bite
Heather Colpitts, 
Langley Advance 
July 19, 2011

Costs for water, sewer, and garbage could rise 44 per cent over the next five years, according to a new report from Metro Vancouver.

Langley is on the eastern edge of Metro Vancouver, and the regional district oversees the water supply, sewage treatment, regional parks, garbage collection, and recycling.

According to Metro Van, the annual cost per $600,000 household in the region is expected to rise from $513 today to $740 by 2016.

The $800-million Seymour-Capilano water filtration plant, planned upgrades to the Iona and Lions Gate sewage treatment plants, and garbage recycling costs all add to the increase.

Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender said the region is going to face increased costs in the coming years for the core services Metro Van provides, but that is breeding taxpayer frustration.

"People are saying, 'When is this going to stop?'" he acknowledged.

He noted that the cost to taxpayers would be significantly higher if each Metro Van municipality tried to provide water, sewer, waste management, and parks services.

As well, municipalities across Canada are dealing with the need to update and replace aging infrastructure.

"Infrastructure only lasts so long," Fassbender added.

Municipalities get eight cents of every tax dollar, while 42 cents goes to provincial governments and 50 cents goes to the federal government. Metro Van finance committee chair Malcolm Brodie, Richmond's mayor, is calling for provincial and federal governments to provide more funding for municipal projects like the water plant replacement.

Over the next 10 years, Metro Van plans to spend $2.3 billion on water infrastructure alone, including the Seymour-Capilano plant, an ultraviolet water treatment plant in Coquitlam and new pipes under the Fraser River to increase water capacity to residents south of the river. It's also calling for $2.2 billion to be spent on sewer services, such as the upgrades of the Iona and Lions Gate sewage treatment plants, which will cost $1.4 billion combined.

Those costs will trickle down to the taxpayer, with water costs set to jump by an average 9.9 per cent over the next five years, from 56 cents per 1,000 litres today to 84 cents in 2016. Sewer services will rise an average 5.5 per cent, going from $170 to $220 for an average home.

Brodie noted senior governments contributed only $150 million to the Seymour-Capilano water plant.

Garbage tipping fees are expected to see one of the biggest jumps, rising from $91 per metric tonne to $205 in 2016 - or even higher if Metro is unable to resolve a dispute with the garbage contractors who now haul trash to the Vancouver and Cache Creek dumps or the Burnaby-based incinerator.

Metro Vancouver plans to build a $450-million trash incinerator in 2015-16.

It is expected that the cost increases will vary across the region, depending on residents use of services. Communities with higher recycling rates will not have the same garbage cost increase as those that send more material to the landfill, while communities like Langley City, which have water meters, will save on water costs.

Metro Van tries to avoid debt, and has a pay-as-you-go policy for regional functions, such as parks and air quality. For those services, Metro is proposing a property tax increase of 2.5 per cent in 2012.

- With files from the Vancouver Sun.