August 16, 2011

LETTER: FOCUS ON SPENDING CUTS, NOT LRT (sewage treatment mention)
HUMAN HEALTH LINKED TO OCEANS (Shoreline litter cleanup 17-25 Sept)



Saanich News, Victoria News, Oak Bay News
August 15, 2011

The prospect of a municipal auditor-general coming in and inspecting Saanich's books is a great resource, says the mayor.

A former longtime business owner, Frank Leonard says auditors help provide productive options to improve practices within a company. In Saanich, that would "help us see if there's something we could do better," Leonard said.

"Part of the bias I have is from my experience in business. I've never seen an auditor as an adversary, I see an auditor as a resource."

Premier Christy Clark last week made good on a campaign promise, saying a municipal auditor would be established by the province to help highlight cost savings measures.

"More than half of our municipalities have populations under 5,000," said Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong, who is currently Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development. "They don't have the capacity to do value-for-money audits or performance audits."

Saanich, with a population of 113,000, doesn't fit into that category. For a municipality our size, Leonard can’t see the auditor coming in to look at the operating budget. Rather, he anticipates audits of services or projects.

“A better use of their time would be to look at a particular service, say policing in Greater Victoria, which is expensive, or a project like building a bridge or an LRT or a sewage treatment plan, and audit that expenditure to see if taxpayers got value for their money," Leonard said. "The provincial auditor or comptroller general don't usually look at the day-to-day operating budget, but if (a municipal auditor) every knocked I would never be reluctant, I'd say 'Come on in.'"

Leonard isn't championing the auditor-general idea just yet, though. His colleagues at the Union of B.C. Municipalities need clarification on the idea.

"(UBCM executives) stressed that local governments have a strong interest in a robust accountability system. Questions (the UBCM) has posed about (the need for a municipal auditor general) should not be taken as questioning the need for local government accountability," said a press release from the UBCM.

If there is concern about the accountability of municipalities, the UBCM says there could be better alternatives than a provincially mandated auditor general.

"In past years initiatives have been collaborative (between the province and UBCM)," Leonard said. "I think this got off on the wrong foot. It was an announcement (from the province) taken as 'this is going to happen,' so everything subsequent (by the UBCM) is a reaction. They're tripped up on the process, which doesn't appear to have been collaborative."

Chong's office has sent out a survey to municipalities and regional districts across B.C. The survey asks municipalities if an auditor should have authority over other local bodies as well.

The B.C. government took similar steps to oversee school districts, imposing common payroll and personnel systems on boards of education and appointing "superintendents of achievement" to monitor district efforts to raise student performance.


LETTER: FOCUS ON SPENDING CUTS, NOT LRT (sewage treatment mention)
Harry J. Rice
Times Colonist
August 12, 2011
Letters to editor:

The headline "Politicians join call for light rail transit" (Aug. 11), would have been more correct if it said "NDP politicians." There were no municipal, provincial or federal Liberals, Conservatives or Greens in attendance.

For NDP MP Denise Savoie, supported by her provincial and municipal comrades, to suggest there are billions of dollars sitting in Ottawa, at a time of financial crisis around the world, waiting to be dispensed to local initiatives such as a debatable LRT project, goes some distance to outlining the NDP mentality in terms of spending priorities. A billion dollars for LRT, a billion dollars for sewage treatment and in pretty short order we will be talking about real money. And they tend to forget there is only one taxpayer, when they discuss obtaining funds from higher levels of government.

These NDP tax-and-spend experts should be focusing on reducing spending and taxes at all levels of government.

Hard-pressed homeowners in the region are having great difficulty maintaining the assets they currently own.

Harry J. Rice


HUMAN HEALTH LINKED TO OCEANS (Shoreline litter cleanup 17-25 Sept)

Georgia Straight Online
August 11, 2011

Having grown up in the seaside town of Gonubie, South Africa, brothers Bryson and Ryan Robertson were self-described beach bums by the time they hit grade school. So after their family moved to North Vancouver when the boys were in their teens, the avid surfers weren’t about to settle for just any nearby waves.

Tofino-area beaches were fine, but on weekends and summer holidays, the two would travel by boat and hike for hours in knee-deep mud up and down Vancouver Island’s west coast in search of hard-core crests. What they ended up finding on so many remote beaches astounded them.

“Every single beach, no matter how far away it was, no matter how perfect or desolate, had garbage on it,” Bryson, 29, tells the Georgia Straight by phone. “In 2004, we started to explore the north end of Vancouver Island. Every beach was covered in trash. It was incredible. About 50 to 70 percent of it was from the opposite side of the Pacific: Japan, China, the Philippines.

“It struck me. I thought: ‘We’ve got all of their garbage; I wonder where our garbage is going and whose life I’m impacting that I’m not even aware of.…I’d be very surprised if someone could find a beach anywhere in the world that does not have plastic on it.”

Along with pal Hugh Patterson, a native Vancouverite, the Robertson brothers were determined to combine their passion for the ocean and quest for adventure with their desire to learn more about the state of the planet’s beaches. The three decided to sail the world and document what they discovered on coastlines along the way. They called their three-year expedition Ocean Gybe.

On Nicaragua’s La Flor Beach—a nature reserve protected for turtle rehabilitation—the team found 354 pop bottles, 162 plastic bags, 32 oil containers, and one car battery, among other debris.

In Barbados, at Long Pond Beach, the three found, among other items, 15 pieces of Styrofoam, 85 bottle caps, 37 plastic bottles, 59 pieces of fishing line and rope, and a toilet seat.

Besides Styrofoam, fishing nets, bottle caps, and rubber sandals, the three found nearly 100 pieces of assorted plastic on Indonesia’s Savu Island beaches.

The list goes on.

Although Patterson and the Robertsons completed their circumnavigation of the globe last fall, they’ve since gone on to document the pollution at beaches closer to home, such as those on the Hesquiat Peninsula, north of Tofino. (There, they came across everything from Japanese fishing floats to various pieces of plastic and metal to a backpack.)

Their mission is ongoing: to promote the protection and conservation of the world’s oceans. They do this mainly by sharing their story and the results of their “garbage studies” with school and youth groups.

“We want people to understand their interconnectedness with the world’s oceans,” Bryson says. “The most obvious impact is garbage on our beaches. But all that garbage in the ocean releases endocrine disruptors, PCBs, and other toxins that enter our food chain.…We’re polluting, and we’re also the ones getting polluted.”

In recent years more research has focused on the link between ocean health and human health.

“Alarms have been sounding about the health of the oceans for some time, but most of the discussion has been limited to marine organisms themselves, as if people were somehow divorced from the ecosystems upon which they depend for their health and well-being,” writes Nancy Knowlton, director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, in an editorial in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. “Sadly, it is no longer possible to ignore the fact that corals and fishes are not the only things suffering from our poor stewardship of the sea around us.”

According to SeaWeb, an international nonprofit organization that advocates for sustainable seafood and ocean conservation, land-based pollutants such as plastics and electronics account for 80 percent of all marine debris. Then there are the countless pounds of pharmaceuticals that are flushed down the drain every year, not to mention oil spills.

But back to that plastic. If it doesn’t wash up on some distant shore, ocean currents carry it to one of the globe’s “gyres”, slowly rotating monster whirlpools where trash accumulates.

The North Pacific Gyre is about twice the size of the United States. Plastic debris will remain there for decades or more, being pushed in a gentle, clockwise spiral toward the centre, according to 5 Gyres, a global organization dedicated to researching and eliminating plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.

“It’s basically a huge, floating garbage patch,” Bryson says of the North Pacific Gyre.

There are simple steps people can take to help minimize the amount of plastic that ends up in the sea and that ultimately threatens environmental and human health, Bryson says.

For starters, there’s the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, which takes place September 17 to 25 at various locations, including lake, inlet, and ocean beaches. (Volunteers can sign up at Last year, the most common types of litter picked up included cigarettes, food wrappers, plastic bags, and beverage bottles.

Then there’s changing our mindset.

“We live in a disposable culture,” Bryson says. “We need to become more aware of how we consume and look at things like plastics, water bottles, packaging.…A single-use plastic water bottle is used on average for about 12 minutes. But we don’t even know how long it lasts in the environment. We can learn how to consume more carefully. It is possible for us to change this; we can do it.

“Dozens of cities have banned plastic bags,” he adds. “Vancouver hasn’t yet, but I hope it’s coming.”



Solid Waste Mag
Aug 1, 2011

The British Columbia Ministry of Environment is proposing amendments to the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation (OMRR) under the Environmental Management Act and the Public Health Act.

The regulation governs the construction and operation of composting facilities, and the production, distribution, storage, sale and use or land application of biosolids and compost.

The OMRR regulatory review process follows the ministry policy of continuous improvement and commitment to review regulations on a regular basis and update them as appropriate.
The ministry's objectives and the proposed content of the amendments are provided in an intentions paper for consultation. The intentions paper is available for review at

A response form to seek comments from stakeholders and the public is also available on the website indicated above.

Comments should be submitted by September 15, 2011.



Six-year study is step toward dealing with chemicals in coastal waters

Mike Lee
Sign On San Diego
14 August 2011

The largest-ever study of toxins in California sport fish shows concerning levels of PCBs and methylmercury at several spots along the San Diego County coastline and elsewhere, the legacy of industrial activity that continues to haunt state waters.

About three-fourths of the 42 spots sampled in California had what state officials called “moderate” degrees of pollution from the two most problematic contaminants, but concentrations at several sites spiked high enough to trigger “no consumption” warnings if more sampling confirms dangerous amounts of the contaminants.

Moderate-to-high levels of pollutants were found in several local species, including various bass, perch, rockfish and shark. Contaminant loads were heaviest in San Diego Bay, a spot that’s long been known as a toxic hot spot much like other industrial and military hubs across the country.

The data are from a $4.5 million series of studies paid for by the State Water Resources Control Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The six-year effort focuses on sport fish because they provide information about human exposure to chemicals and the condition of the aquatic food web. Results from 27 more coastal spots are scheduled to be released next year.

“Before these surveys, we really had no benchmark — mostly just anecdotal information — for where to focus our efforts,” said Dave Clegern, a spokesman for the state water board. “Now we can look toward seeing what the best way to deal with these chemicals may be. In the case of mercury, it’s so heavy many researchers believe the best solution is to let it be so it is eventually buried. PCBs are often regarded the same way, but that may not be the best course everywhere.”

California’s coastal waters are some of the most abundant in the world, thanks to the upwelling of cold waters that bring nutrients near the surface. But the California Current is under many pressures, such as the changing climate, fishing and pollution.

Contaminants in fish are particularly troublesome for children, people with compromised immune systems and those who eat large quantities of local seafood, a common practice in some ethnic communities. They also are a reminder about the unintended consequences that many 20th-century products created in the environment.

While several contaminants have been reduced in recent decades, toxins continue to linger in wastewater and stormwater, and they become concentrated in humans and other mammals.

“Maybe people don’t eat fish from the bay, but everybody is connected to the food web,” said Laura Hunter, a veteran activist with the Environmental Health Coalition in National City.

She said studies such as the one recently released by the state show that “we are not doing enough to address these issues of legacy pollutants.”

Six years ago, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board proposed removing or capping a relatively small segment of polluted sediment from San Diego Bay. The agency identified copper, mercury, PCBs, arsenic, cadmium, lead and other chemicals of concern.

The cleanup plan still hasn’t been finalized, partly because of objections by companies and agencies on the hook for the bill, but momentum is building for a plan to be adopted by the end of this year.

For the statewide fish study, California scientists looked in fish from metropolitan areas for several pollutants, including dieldrin, DDT, chlordanes and selenium. Most substances were found at low levels, but that wasn’t the case for methylmercury and PCBs.

Methylmercury contamination of coastal waters likely originates from multiple sources, including mercury, gold, and silver mining; regional and global emissions into the atmosphere; and wastewater and stormwater. Methylmercury can affect the nervous system in children and adolescents, potentially leading to learning disabilities.

Many of the highest concentrations of methylmercury were found in sharks, which tend to concentrate the substance in their tissue.

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are a group of chemicals consisting of more than 200 individual compounds. They can cause cancer, damage the liver and affect development, reproduction and the immune system. They were used widely during the mid-1900s in electrical, industrial and other applications — and they still haven’t disappeared, despite being banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1979.

State health officials have urged residents to eat more fish for its health benefits, but they suggest eating different varieties to avoid relying on one that retains lots of chemicals.

They also said people should eat only the fillets, trim visible fat and thoroughly cook seafood before eating it, preferably using a method that allows the juices to drain.