November 9, 2011



ARESST: We offer a big thanks to Shaun for his presentation! And thanks to Elizabeth Woodworth for attached photo montage from AGM.


Thank you for the opportunity to speak at this second annual meeting of ARESST – the Association for Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment in Victoria.

I would first like to congratulate members of ARESST on the success that we have had over the last four years in keeping in front of the community and elected officials the important message that Victoria does not need land based secondary treatment plants, that our liquid waste is treated naturally by the unique marine environment and that when you consider the overall environment – marine, land and global, building land based sewage treatment plants and creating a toxic sludge that has to be disposed of will do more harm that the minimal effect that is occurring on the ocean floor with our two deep sea outfalls.

I would like to thank our community partners – Save Haro Woods, the Esquimalt Residents Association and others with whom we have met and discussed common issues over the last few years.

There are many individuals who have volunteered and who are members of ARESST and who have put in an enormous amount of time and energy. Without naming any particular individual I would like to thank you all on behalf of the Board of ARESST.

I was amazed recently when the Georgia Strait Alliance and the T Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation came up with a document called “Victoria’s Raw Sewage Discharge – Frequently asked questions” that has been provided to candidates in the upcoming municipal elections.

The document is full of misinformation, or what someone recently described to me as “junk science”, that is designed to feed into the public’s perceptions rather than to provide credible scientific evidence. 

These organisations have full time staff to produce this information but it is appalling that they can produce such misinformation.

The T Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation (TBSEF) is supported by the United Fisherman and Allied Workers Union which was taken over by the Canadian Autoworkers Union and is known as UFAW-CAW. In fact the TBSEF works out of the same address as the UFAW-CAW.  I was also shocked to find out that the TBSEF receives a regular grant from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

To counter some of the misinformation. Victoria’s sewage is not raw – it has preliminary treatment designed by civil engineers with fine screens (6 mm) and is then discharged through two 60 meter deep outfalls with long diffusers that ensure that the effluent is rapidly oxygenated.  130 Million Litres sounds a lot but as Dr Jack Littlepage showed eloquently last year this is less than “a drop in a bucket” when he showed that that there is the equivalent of 10,400 tankers per hour flowing out of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and that Victoria’s sewage flow is 1/10th of a tanker per hour. Victoria’s effluent is miniscule compared to the incredible volumes of seawater and Fraser River water travelling out of the Strait, along the Canadian shore to the Pacific Ocean. As Dr Jay Cullen has calculated it is 0.001% of the natural flow of water into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  This means that it is the equivalent of one drop in a 5 litre bucket of water (1 drop is 1/20th of an ml).

The closure of the coast line to shellfish harvesting has been given as a reason for treatment. This misinformation fails to mention that Victoria’s shore line, like any other urban area, will always be closed to shellfish harvesting due to the shoreline contamination from the storm water drains from road and other sources in the rainwater drains.

Victoria’s source control program has been highly successful in reducing contaminants in the sewage as is shown by the annual marine monitoring reports. If there is concern for the marine environment what is now needed is a source control program for the rainwater discharges that occur to the shoreline around the coast.

The fish toxicity test has often been mentioned – but what is not mentioned is that this test is performed using freshwater trout that are held in a container of seawater. This test is inappropriate for salt water. It also fails to acknowledge that fish naturally will swim away from any discharge where there is insufficient oxygen or substance that may be unappetising.

The TBSEF report suggests that what Victoria is doing is the same as 1894.  This is far from the truth. The current civil engineered designed deep sea outfalls with diffusers and fine screening was installed about forty years ago and are very effective in ensuring the effluent is treated naturally by the marine environment.

It is suggested that spending $782 Million on land based treatment there may be some benefit. What needs to be acknowledged is that no one has been able to define in measurable terms what will be the benefit to the Marine Environment in Victoria’s unique situation.

B.C’s Ministry of Environment staff have even told me that we have to take a “one size fits all” approach because we do not have the resources (staff) to carry out site specific risk assessments. I find that a really weak argument when we are dealing with potentially spending $782 Million.  When the US EPA was established in 1970 this “one size fits all” is the approach they took. Ten years later they realised that this approach was wrong and as the EPA administrator William Rukulshaus said “It is time we took aim before we shoot”. Are we really that many years behind in Environmental Regulation in Canada?

There are wonderful things you can do after you have built sewage treatment plants and there are many large and small engineering firms waiting in the wings to apply the latest technology – heat and energy recovery, creating methane gas that can be burned, recovering even metals. However this all comes at a cost to the taxpayers – the more of the latest technology that you use usually there is a greater up front capital cost.  We must keep reminding people that we do not need to build the treatment plants in the first place.  You can be sure if you build them there will be calls on the taxpayers dollar for more “add ons”.

The World Health Organisation publishes guidelines for the safety of wastewater, when there is human exposure (or contact) – like drinking the water or bathing.  What is different for Victoria is that there is virtually no human contact either direct or indirectly (for example consuming fish) to the deep sea discharged plume.  The Canadian Recreational Water guidelines are not exceeded at the surface over the plume where you can occasionally detect bacteria that may have originated in the then highly diluted plume 60 meters below the surface.

It is of interest that the World Bank recommends deep sea outfalls where what they call the “autopurification” capacity of receiving bodies needs to be taken into account. The World Bank references the low public health risk, supported by the World Health Organisation, when these outfalls are properly designed as they have been for the marine environment off Victoria.

The TBSEF trumpets the “its illegal” message. What they should be reminded of is that the Federal Fisheries Act has for years had fines for discharging anything that is deleterious to fish into the Environment.  For Victoria this has never been applied because there was disagreement between the Province and the Federal Government on its application. The Provincial regulations allowed for a 100 meter initial dilution zone.  At 100 meters to-day from the diffusers at the end of the deep sea discharge Victoria meets the proposed Federal Municipal Wastewater Regulation.  You may have seen the remarkable underwater photographs that show an abundance of sea life and fish swimming close to the diffusers at the end of the deep ocean discharge.

I hear that candidates in this upcoming Municipal election have said “It is too late to rethink this project”.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Admittedly $25 Million has been spent on planning but nothing has yet been built. There have been no shovels in the ground. Many projects in history have been cancelled even after construction – the Avro Arrow, the Fast Ferries etc.  There is still plenty of time to take a second look at this plan.

At this time there is a lot of uncertainty as to the direction of the economy and Canadian Governments who may fund this project are taking a careful look at expenditures on Infrastructure projects.  We have not to date been successful in convincing the regulatory side of Government that their regulatory requirements for Victoria’s liquid waste discharge are not based on the best science.  I am optimistic that the Provincial and Federal Treasury Boards will take a look at this issue. They will ask the question – “what will be the benefit to the marine and overall environment from building these land based sewage treatment plants? Will there be a cost benefit?” They will be told – “well actually there will be no measurable benefit to public health or the marine environment and further more when you consider the overall marine, land and global environment there will be more harm than good.”  They will then say – “given all our priorities we should review whether to cost share this $782 Million expenditure.”

Our provincial government has a budget deficit and is worried about the effects of a slumping worldwide economy.  It's slashing costs to try to find $1.6 billion it must repay Ottawa after the Harmonized Sales Tax was rejected in the August referendum.

From my perspective – continuing to remind the public, elected officials in all levels of government that Victoria has a unique Marine environment that treats the sewage effluent naturally is worthwhile. This statement is solidly supported by Marine Scientists and Public Health Officials.

Recently columnist and successful industrialist Gwyn Morgan – wrote in the Globe and Mail and the Victoria Times Colonist a plea for public policy decisions to be based on the best science.  I quote:

“Sometimes costly decisions are made in response to public perceptions, even when thorough scientific analysis shows an expenditure would not benefit, or might even harm, the environment. A current example is the proposed $782-million sewage treatment plan for Victoria. The city’s sewage currently undergoes primary screening before being pumped offshore into the Juan de Fuca Strait. Huge tidal flows through the strait drive strong currents that break up and oxidize the sewage quickly and thoroughly. Measurements show that within only 100 metres of the Victoria outflow point, effluent quality as good as that disposed of by much larger cities into rivers of comparatively tiny flow volumes.

An expert panel appointed by the Victoria Capital Regional District found no scientific evidence of significant contamination; and more than 10 marine scientists and six current and former medical health officers have stated that deep-ocean disposal has a minimal impact on the marine environment and no measureable public-health risk. Yet the federal and provincial governments insist that a land-based treatment system must be built. Why? Prophetically, the expert panel’s report signalled that its conclusions might be ignored because of public sentiment based on “ethics, aesthetics or other factors that cannot be resolved on purely scientific grounds.”

But the pending victory of public perception over scientific fact doesn’t end there. Although ocean disposal was thoroughly assessed, the environmental impacts of land-based treatment were not. These include using good farm and/or recreational land for sewage treatment plants; odour emissions to nearby residential areas; substantial energy consumption; atmospheric emissions; and surface contamination from treating, transporting and disposing thousands of tonnes of sewage sludge annually.

Public-policy decisions that ignore scientific facts in favour of pressure from vocal minorities can kill job-creating commercial ventures, or cause unnecessary public expenditures. In both cases, society loses.”

Thank you Gwyn for saying it so succinctly.

For members of ARESST there are still plenty of opportunities to remind the public and elected officials at the Federal, Provincial, Regional and Municipal level that this is not a done deal and it is worth a second look.  ARESST has achieved a lot in the last four years.

We will continue to advocate for the most Environmentally Sustainable solution for Victoria’s liquid waste.

Thank you,

Dr Shaun Peck
Board Member at Large
The Association for Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment for Victoria.



Thanks to John Bergbusch for this brief summary. More information to follow.

New ARESST executive members:  Bob Furber, John Newcomb, Karen James, John Motherwell, Elizabeth Woodworth, Bill Wolferstan, Don Monsour, John Bergbusch, Shaun Peck.

A very good discussion.

Paul Brown, Victoria mayoralty candidate, attended and spoke in favor of our position on sewage treatment.



Tim Davis has put together a meeting of two anti-sewage plant candidates Paul Brown and Steve Filipovic for 16 November, 7pm, at Serious Coffee, 230 Cook Street (in the Village near Oxford St)

 Tim anticipates that the format would be:
  1. The two candidates speak
  2. Referencing some of the questions of the Georgia Strait Alliance's misleading "FAQ",
  3. The audience can ask questions
  4. The candidates can then debate or deal with other civic issues.
Tim is looking for ARESST members to come to provide some support for answering some of the GSA FAQ questions. For further information, contact Tim



Esquimalt High School (847 COLVILLE RD, Esquimalt at 6:30, Meeting starts at 7pm. 

Sewage question



See attached image of Ingrid Ip and Jesse McLinton - the only Saanich council candidates to include sewage treatment as an issue.



Times Colonist
9 November 2011 (online only)

Re: “CRD covered bases on sewage plan,” letter, Oct. 26.

I don’t understand the triple-bottom-line with regard to sewage treatment. Economically it costs $780 million. Socially, there is no evidence it will make people’s lives better and marine scientists agree there are very few environmental benefits.

David Roberts


ARESST: Excerpt from article below: And the three asked about the CRD's sewage treatment plan all disagreed with it.


Goldstream News Gazette
November 04, 2011 

Two all-candidates meetings held simultaneously in Colwood Wednesday has split council hopefuls into two distinct and largely polarized camps on how to best guide the city out of economic turmoil.

A meeting at the Presbyterian Church organized by the Concerned Citizen Coalition was meant to address a perceived bias at the longstanding West Shore Chamber of Commerce sponsored event.

The Coalition organizers suggested the Chamber event at the Chuch of the Advent favoured candidates who are members of the business association.

That the two meetings were scheduled for the same time was apparently an accident, and email negotiations between the two camps failed to bring the sides together. Candidates at both events claimed they merely attended the meeting for which they first received an invitation.

Both events had a similar size audience, with more than 200 people cramming their respective church halls. But the discussions at the events were markedly different.

Church of the Advent meeting

Attending the Chamber's meeting were two mayoral candidates—Carol Hamilton and Jason Nault—and five people running for the six council seats—incumbents Judith Cullington, Cynthia Day and Gordie Logan, as well as Robert Martin and Shari Lukens.

To address the fear of bias, the chamber-appointed moderator, former Kwantlen college president Skip Triplett, had audience members randomly draw the questions and names of three candidates to answer them. Additional questions were also allowed at an open mic at the end.

There were few issues the candidates in the room didn't agree on. A question on the Capital Regional District's pedestrian and cycling master plan garnered three enthusiastic responses in support of it. And the three asked about the CRD's sewage treatment plan all disagreed with it.

There was much talk about how to increase government transparency, with a surprise promise coming from three-term councillor Cynthia Day who said she'd figured out a way the meetings could be video recorded for the public to view online.

Mayor-candidate Justin Nault said he'd post his meeting schedule and expenses online and improve the City's website, while Carol Hamilton, also running for mayor, said she'd make meetings more welcoming to the public.

On the issue of City staffing levels, Nault and council candidates Robert Martin and Shari Lukens all said they believe the current levels are appropriate.

"Colwood is getting to be a big city, and it needs a big staff," Nault said.

And Martin pointed out that cutting staff would lead to delays in processing applications for things such as development permits, which ultimately generate money for the City.

"We don't want to save a dollar today and lose two dollars tomorrow," Martin said.

Lukins added that engineering director Michael Baxter has been, "taxed to the max" working out the City's sewage fiasco in particular, but recent streamlining of the sewage tax will free up staff time for other projects.

On a similar question of reviewing staff wages, council candidates Cynthia Day, Gordie Logan and Judith Cullington all said they'd be willing to consider a review, but didn't expect to find the wages inappropriate.

"We review costs every year at budget time," Cullington said, adding that City departments are already bare-bones operations. "We only have two planners and their two assistants in the planning department ... We'll need to increase that at some point."

The mayor candidates were asked—in light of Brian Tucknott promising zero tax increases—what they view as a reasonable tax increase each year. Nault and Hamilton both predicted increases of two to three per cent, in line with the City's five year financial plan, which accounts for inflation and contractual wage increases for their unionized staff.

Unlike at the coalition-sponsored meeting, there was little mention of Solar Colwood, besides Cullington mentioning it only costs tax payers about $1.70 per year.

Instead, candidates harped on the attendance record of one absent candidate.

Cullington and Nault had compiled the attendance from the current council term, which revealed veteran councillor Ernie Robertson had missed one third of regular council meetings, half the budget meetings, and only once attended a parks and recreation committee meeting, which he was meant to chair.

Nault said if he were mayor, he'd regularly post attendance records and demote councillors who missed their committee meetings, first bumping them from chair to vice-chair, then completely removing them from the committee if necessary.

"I'd make sure people were only assigned to meetings they were available for," he added.

Finally, candidates addressed in-fighting and stressed the importance of electing a council that would work well together.

"It's up to you who we have to work with," Hamilton told the audience, challenging them to do their research and talk to their neighbours about who to vote.

The chamber meeting was video recorded and will be available at

Presbyterian Church meeting

Mayoral candidate Coun. Brian Tucknott and council candidates Teresa Harvey, Bill Wagner, Rick McKay, Duane MacNeill and Coun. Ernie Robertson were largely on the same page on a number of hot button topics – Solar Colwood, City staffing and overhauling City fiscal management.

Candidates faced questions from a packed house, including why there were two separate meetings on the same day, at the same time. Organizer John Read said pre-submitting questions through the West Shore Chamber of Commerce is “wrong and undemocratic.”

Most of the other candidates expressed a deep mistrust of the chamber, the format of the other meeting, or that they had first received an meeting invitation from the Colwood Concerned Citizen’s group.

“Some believe the chamber wields too much political influence,”  said Tucknott, a one term councillor. Robertson, a five-term councillor, called the parallel meeting “a healthy sign of a living democracy left in Colwood.”

The meeting got off to a rocky start. One audience member waved an email that indicated meeting organizers wouldn’t allow candidate representatives to speak – which is against election law. Moderator Mike Geoghegan quickly reversed that to allow representatives to speak, although none came forward.

Many of the candidates spoke of high tax increases and fiscal mismanagement at Colwood city hall in past years, the need to refocus on core city services – police, fire and public works – and to dump non-essential programs, such as Solar Colwood.

“We’ve heard consistently that taxes are no longer sustainable. Some people in Colwood are thinking of selling their homes and leaving,” Harvey said. “We need to get our financial house in order.”

“Colwood is at a crossroads. We can’t continue toward a dead end with ill-conceived projects, fiscal mismanagement and secret meetings,” McKay said. “We need strict cost controls and to focus on core essential services. Council should think like a taxpayer.”

Wagner, an accountant, called Colwood “operationally bankrupt,” and slammed its budget process. Colwood staff are “overpaid and under-worked,” he told the audience. “There is bloated staffing at Colwood and bloated salaries. The sense of entitlement should be swept away.”

“Executive hiring has got to be put under review,” Robertson said. “We need to deliver services for people. We don’t need to hire more executives.”

Several candidates vowed to shut down Solar Colwood, a project where the federal government granted $3.9 million to subsidize home energy-saving retrofits.

“I’m committed to a zero per cent tax increase in 2012, and no more than the cost of living in the next two years,” said McNeill, who last ran for council about 20 years ago. “I would move to stop Solar Colwood. It is a financial drain on staff resources and taxpayer money.”

“We need to freeze taxes focus on core police, fire and public works and end the misadventure of the new green economy,” Roberston said.

“There are considerable hidden costs with Solar Colwood. I’d do my best to shut it down,” Wagner said. “The numbers don’t work.”

An audience member challenged Tucknott’s campaign signs vowing not to raise taxes, while keeping city services funded.

Tucknott said that zero mandate only applies to services under direct control of council. He said would look to freeze new employment, discretionary projects and overtime, conduct a full financial audit and possibly eliminate grant funding.

Most of the candidates promised more transparency at council and more public input into council decision making. Tucknott said he'd open city hall on Saturdays for informal chats. McKay said he wanted to bring in more citizens for advisory groups. Most advocated audio or video recording council meetings.

Some audience members questioned why Colwood council was struck with infighting and acrimony. Tucknott and Robertson agreed conflict at council is a problem, but both  said the speak out against policy they don’t like.”

“We need the right people elected,” Robertson said.

“If we don’t elect a new council we are going to have a continuation of this disfunction,” Tucknott said. “It is inevitable. We need new blood.”

-- by Sam Van Schie and Edward Hill



Metal stress and decreased tree growth in response to biosolids application in greenhouse seedlings and in situ Douglas-fir stands

Erica T. Cline , Quyen T.N. Nguyen, Lucy Rollins, James E. Gawel,

Environmental Pollution
Volume 160, January 2012, Pages 139-144

Received 12 May 2011; revised 31 August 2011; Accepted 3 September 2011. Available online 14 October 2011.

To assess physiological impacts of biosolids on trees, metal contaminants and phytochelatins were measured in Douglas-fir stands amended with biosolids in 1982. A subsequent greenhouse study compared these same soils to soils amended with fresh wastewater treatment plant biosolids. 

Biosolids-amended field soils had significantly higher organic matter, lower pH, and elevated metals even after 25 years. 

In the field study, no beneficial growth effects were detected in biosolids-amended stands and in the greenhouse study both fresh and historic biosolids amendments resulted in lower seedling growth rates. 

Phytochelatins – bioindicators of intracellular metal stress – were elevated in foliage of biosolids-amended stands, and significantly higher in roots of seedlings grown with fresh biosolids. These results demonstrate that biosolids amendments have short- and long-term negative effects that may counteract the expected tree growth benefits.