December 12, 2011

OCEANSIDE (CALIFORNIA) TO PAY $4.4M FOR SLUDGE HAULING (sewage sludge trucked to Arizona)


ARESST: Addressing storm water and drainage issues could do far more for reducing environmental impacts on our marine environment than a land-based sewage plant. The Saanich Peninsula already has secondary-stage sewage treatment plant at Bazan Bay near Sidney - but also many septic tank systems that could be contributing to toxins getting into Peninsula streams and nearshore environment. 

(no meeting of CALWMC for December)

1. Stormwater Source Control – Transfer Of Authority (to Saanich Peninsula Wastewater Commission)

That application be made to the Province for additional authority by way of regulation under section 799(1)(a) of the Local Government Act to be granted the power of a municipality under section 8(3)(j) of the Community Charter to provide a service for the protection of the natural environment to the same extent and in the same manner as a municipality for the purpose of the regulation of discharges to the municipal stormwater system and watercourses within the municipalities of Central Saanich, North Saanich and Sidney.


ARESST: The CRD sewage plant will not have a rigorous EIA because BC is allowing it to proceed under the Municipal Sewage Regulations, rather than the BCEAA (a 20 page process versus 200 pages!), but CRD have said that the federal CEAA would also be done. Now, if feds let the MSR be sufficient without CEAA oversight, this project could proceed without the necessary, stringent environmental impact assessment (both marine and land) that it needs.


Are you ready for a new Environmental Assessment Act in Canada?

WaterKeeper Canada

As you read this, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development is locked in an in camera meeting on Parliament Hill. The Committee has one agenda item: review a draft report on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. It’s highly unlikely that the report will contain good news for Canadians who care about clean air and water.

The Committee heard from 25 individuals and organizations between October 20 – November 24. At least one scheduled meeting was cancelled abruptly and the Committee instructed its analysts to report back today.

You should be nervous about this report.

First, the terms of reference given to the analysts are – to be blunt – biased. Analysts have been asked to address proponents’ and stakeholders’ concerns – but not public concerns. They have been asked to document “inefficiencies” and “ambiguities” (aka, “red tape”). They have been asked to identify ways to eliminate federal assessments. They have been instructed NOT to consider certain briefs submitted to the Committee during the review process.

Most alarmingly of all, the analyst’s report will be made confidential. It will also be numbered, discouraging any committee members from leaking it to the general public.

The Committee hearings were stacked with industry spokespeople who repeated similar talking points about “streamlining” environmental assessments in each of their presentations.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, for example, urged the Committee to keep the scope of the CEAA narrow, stating that it shouldn’t be a tool to determine whether projects proceed; only how they proceed. This position suggests that no project is too dirty, no development too damaging to be turned down. Ever.

Even Peter Kent, Environment Minister, apparently cannot wait to make dramatic cuts to the number of environmental assessments that Canada undertakes each year. He intends to go from about 6,000 reviews each year to just a few hundred – possibly by dumping responsibilities on the provinces.

Kent’s position, at least in Ontario, is preposterous. If you look at all the federal environmental assessments that Waterkeeper has been involved in recently, not a single one has been reviewed by the Province of Ontario: the Darlington new nuclear power plant, Cameco’s waterfront redevelopment project in Port Hope, the FarmTech ethanol facility in Oshawa, and on and on. Ontario has been hands-off on environmental assessments for twenty years, when it used to oversee an often remarkably-effective environmental assessment program.

The truth is, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is often the only reason the environmental impacts of major projects are assessed or studied before construction begins. It is often the only reason the public is notified or given the chance to speak up when development threatens their community’s water or air. According to the Assembly of First Nations, the CEAA is also the main way aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed before major development projects proceed.

We do not know what the Committee’s review of environmental assessments will mean for Canada. Our fingers are crossed.




Decisions made daily on cleanup; 'there is seldom a single silver bullet'
Judith Lavoie And Jeff Bell
Times Colonist
December 07, 2011

Experts are assessing damage to Colquitz River and considering whether to rip out contaminated vegetation or do remediation work in the stream bed after at least 1,000 litres of home heating oil spilled into the waterway.

"We are looking at whether there is an opportunity in some of the contaminated areas, like near the outfall, to do more aggressive work," Graham Knox, provincial manager of environmental emergencies, said Tuesday.

A plan, looking at pros and cons of ramping up cleanup efforts, will be reviewed this week by Fisheries and Oceans, Saanich, Environment Canada, Esquimalt Anglers and the province. "The question is always the net environmental benefit," Knox said.

Saanich engineering director Colin Doyle said decisions on the cleanup are being made daily.

"There is seldom a single silver bullet," he said. "Ripping out vegetation can have a negative impact. We don't want to expose the banks, which causes silting in the stream and plugs up spawning beds."

On the other hand, pools of fuel caught in vegetation could cause further damage if washed into the creek by heavy rain.

Mike Ippen, Saanich's manager of public works, said there is a window of about a week for the vegetation to be removed, although heavy rain could still stop it from happening.

"It may not be all the vegetation," he said. "We may do patches - in other words, use some of the vegetation to hold back sediment."

Crews could then go back and take out more vegetation in the summer, if necessary.

The cleanup is being overseen by the province and the work is being done by Saanich public works crews with advice from consultants, biologists and Fisheries and Oceans.

Ippen estimated Saanich's costs so far at about $20,000.

The cleanup bill will go to the Kenneth Street home-owner whose tank ruptured, allowing from 1,000 to 1,800 litres of home heating oil to leak into storm drains. From there, the oil ran into Swan Creek and then Colquitz River, a coho-spawning stream.

"Hopefully, he has got good insurance," Doyle said. "He is very concerned and he has been very co-operative."

Saanich was criticized by some residents for its slow response, but Knox said he is not concerned.

Provincial staff, worried about dying fish, increased the response Sunday and advised Saanich crews on how to better position booms and absorbent pads in fastmoving water, he said.

A heavy oil smell, noticed days before the leak was officially reported Friday, was probably caused by small amounts of oil leaking from the pipe between the tank and the house, Knox said.



Saanich News
December 06, 2011 
Click here to send letter to Saanich News

Bob Bridgeman has been a friend of Mount Douglas for more than a decade.

He's the go-to guy when it comes to the protection and health of the salmon spawning creek that runs through the park.

And he wasn’t shocked to hear that as much as 1,000 litres of home heating oil had leaked into the Colquitz River system.

Bridgeman has seen dozens of oil spills in Douglas Creek, he said, contending that not enough is being done to prevent it from happening again.

"Once these spills get into the creek, whether it's Douglas Creek or Colquitz, it's already too late," he said. "The oil boom technology (the municipality is using) is absolutely inefficient, so you have to ask the question: how much oil is actually being recovered? The rest is going into the environment."

According to Graham Knox, manager of the Ministry of Environment's Environmental Emergency Program, the amount recovered by booms and absorbent pads is minimal.

"We're lucky if we get 15 per cent of the hazardous material," Knox said.

Bridgeman said the only repercussions for the municipality's inadequacies are "public outrage, despair, angst and anger."

Quoted in a November 2005 ***News article after 872 litres of furnace oil leaked from Saanich firehall No. 3 into Douglas Creek, Bridgeman said: "(Saanich has) a plan so people think (the problem) is taken care of, but it doesn't work."

Six years later he says nothing has changed.

"We've expressed our feelings about how spills are being managed several times, and we haven't been able to get (Saanich) to budge, or at least buy into a different technology," he said.

The municipality's manager of public works defended Saanich, saying the oil spill response procedures were audited.

"The recommendations that came out were pretty minor, and the overall confidence level the third-party auditor had was extremely high," Mike Ippen said.

Crews are still monitoring the contamination of the water in Swan Creek and Colquitz River, Ippen said. A dozen booms and additional absorbent pads are being checked and replaced on a routine basis.

On Tuesday, Nov. 22, a home heating oil tank from a residence on Kenneth Street failed and began leaking into Swan Creek. It took until Friday, Nov. 25, before Saanich crews moved in to try and contain the spill.

"There are parts of the system upstream, between Glanford and McKenzie, where there are pockets where we think the vegetation is fairly contaminated," Ippen said on Monday. To mitigate the impacts, an environmental consultant is working with Saanich and making recommendations on how to ensure the watershed stays healthy.

Coun. Judy Brownoff says the Capital Region needs a watershed management strategy acceptable to all municipalities in order to protect natural environments in Greater Victoria.

"It's fair to say we'd be lost without these volunteer groups (like Friends of Mount Douglas). I'm hopeful that the watershed management plan, whatever that may look like, might have some more opportunities financially (to help these groups)," she said.

The region's watersheds run across municipal boundaries, which is why a strategy within the regional government would be beneficial, said Glenn Harris, senior manager of environmental protection with the CRD.

The reality is that it's going to be nearly impossible to ensure hazardous material never again enters the waterways, Brownoff said.

"I don't think we recognize where that pollution goes when a (home heating oil) tank leaks, and the kind of environmental devastation it can cause," she said. "We all watched the spill in the Gulf (of Mexico) with the big oil rig. I don't think as citizens we relate it our natural environment locally, and that's what we need to be doing."

Saanich's environmental advisory committee was expected to meet yesterday (Tuesday) to discuss the impacts of the recent spill. Chaired by Coun. Vicki Sanders, she said Monday that there is room to make improvements to proactively prevent oil spills.

"At the end of the day … (the environmental advisory committee will) have to look at the environmental impacts and come up with policy changes, and then we'll make recommendations to council on how we're going to deal with this," Sanders suspected. "We're going to have to look at changes in the bureaucratic process … because this oil spill is huge."

Bridgeman has spoken to the committee about improvements that can be made to the whole

storm-water management system.

But policy changes spurred by past spills have never been a topic of discussion at the advisory committee, Sanders said.

Bridgeman wants Saanich to make improvements – such as changing the underground piping to include control pumps that can stop contaminated flows from reaching a watershed – though he admits such plans are expensive.

"People have insurance, but what about the fish? … It could take years to build up that urban stream again," Bridgeman said. "(Saanich's current response is) a terrible indicator of how we're living on these watersheds and what our values really are."



City engineer says increases needed to pay for new filtration plant and to prepare for coming upgrades at treatment facilities
DECEMBER 10, 2011
Vancouver homeowners will see their water and sewer rates each rise by just under 10 per cent next year, and garbage rates by 5.7 per cent.

Those increases will add an additional $81 to the average utility tax bill for 2012, according to city engineer Peter Judd.

But those fee increases are necessary in part to pay for the now-completed $800-million Seymour water filtration plant and to cushion against major increases coming in future years to pay for secondary stage sewage treatment, he said: "This is when the chickens are coming home to roost."

In three reports going to council Tuesday Judd lined out the challenges the city faces in providing adequate water, sewage and solid waste services. He's recommending water and sewer rates go up by 9.9 per cent.

The increases come as the city prepares to ramp up efforts to change homeowners' habits around the use of water and disposal of garbage. In its 2020 Greenest City Action Plan, the city has set a goal of reducing water consumption by a third from its 2006 levels.

As part of that expectation, council is likely to give final approval Tuesday to a plan requiring water meters in all new home construction, roughly between 1,000 and 2,000 units a year. It also will, for the first time, begin to pass on a seasonal water rate increase of 25 per cent in summer months to those with meters, Judd said. Metro has already been charging the city a seasonal rate, but homeowners weren't having to pay that.

Judd said he's going to suggest that council begin a voluntary meter replacement program to try to convince many of the 84,000 unmetered homes to convert. Statistics have shown that a metered home with an average of 3.5 people will have a four-per-cent reduction in water bills, while those for unmetered homes will go up by 9.9 per cent.

Apart from the direct financial incentive to the homeowner for using less water, there is a larger imperative at play, he said. Metro residents use twice as much water as people in London, Melbourne, Copenhagen and Paris.

"Why we're doing this is not just because we're water hogs and we should use less water," he said. "It is because there is a real liability that we're building up for the future if we don't get our water use under control."

If homeowners are complaining about their rates now, wait until Metro Vancouver has to spend billions of dollars to increase supply because it couldn't convince people to be more thrifty with their water use, he said.

The story for sewage rates is a little different. Judd said the city has to accelerate a replacement program that requires it to have separated sewer lines by 2050. Currently much of the city is on combined sewer and storm drain overflows, meaning that during heavy rains raw sewage can find its way into English Bay, Burrard Inlet and False Creek. But the biggest ticket for the sewerage department is the need to create a financial cushion against major rate increases Metro Vancouver is expected to start charging in 2016 to fund upgrades of the Iona Island and Lions Gate treatment plants.

"We're socking money away in the sewer stabilization reserve and that's because by 2030 at the latest Metro is obligated to do secondary treatment at Iona and that will drive rates up absolutely massively," he said.

On the garbage and recycling front, the city is in slightly better shape. However, more changes are afoot. Later this year Judd expects city residents will have to begin separating out compostable material, including food scraps. Right now they only have to put aside yard trimmings and green kitchen waste. Last year the city put two neighbourhoods, Sunset and Riley Park, on a pilot project to test a complete food scraps collection program.

Some municipalities, such as Coquitlam and New Westminster, already require food scraps separation, but Vancouver has been "behind the game" because the logistics for such a large city are complicated, he said.

In July a Metro Vancouver finance report said the cost of services will climb 44 per cent over the next five years as taxpayers pay the price for clean air and water, sewer services, parks and garbage collection.

By 2021 Metro Vancouver plans to spend $2.3 billion on water infrastructure alone, including the Seymour filtration 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 also expects to spend $2.2 billion on sewer services, including a $1.4 billion combined cost of upgrading Iona Island and Lions Gate to secondary treatment.



SignOn San Diego
8 December 2011

OCEANSIDE — When sewage flows into the treatment plant in Oceanside, water is separated from the gunk, then pumped into the ocean through an outflow pipe 1.7 miles offshore. But where does the sludge go?

For years it has been shipped to Arizona, costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. The City Council last week approved a five-year extension to the existing contract with Terra Renewal West, LLC worth $4.4 million. Water Utilities Department officials said the contract is necessary because it is becoming more and more difficult to find contractors who can adequately do the work and who have a variety of locations to take the sludge.

Water officials worry that Arizona legislators might block the waste, typically called biosolids, from being used to fertilize land there, as has been done in some California counties. That would leave San Diego wastewater agencies producing tons of solid waste a day with nowhere to take it.

“Every city has to deal with this,” Mayor Jim Wood said. “We send our solid waste on a vacation to Arizona. … Year by year by year, the technology is improving. Somewhere down the line we probably might be able to make money out of this.”

Councilman Jerome Kern said he was looking into partnering with a company about converting the waste into energy.

Water Department Administrative Manager Greg Blakely said the contract extension is still a good idea in the meantime, as those technologies are in their early stages.

“There’s a lot of new technologies out there but none of them are really proven at this time,” he said.

The city is charged per wet ton. Blakely said the new contract actually charges less per wet ton than the old one. At a rate of $39.95 per wet ton, to be adjusted with the consumer price index, the city expects to spend as much as $799,000 from this December to December 2012, though it will likely be closer to $600,000, officials said, and $971,189 from December 2015 to December 2016, when the contract expires.

The five-year contract approved in December 2006 was for $4.74 million.
Water Utilities Director Cari Dale said part of the problem is how the sludge is viewed.
“There is generally just an ‘ew’ factor with (using) those biosolids, which is the solid stuff coming out of sewage,” Dale said. “People need to get over that and use that, because it’s a resource, and the future is using our resources.”

Some wastewater districts have already taken steps in that direction.

Encina Wastewater Authority treats sewage from Carlsbad, Vista, Encinitas, San Marcos-based Vallecitos Water District, Leucadia Wastewater District and the Buena Sanitation District. In 2009 it began converting the biosolids to pellets, which are now sold as biofuels and could also be used as fertilizer.

Where Encina had paid more than $2 million per year for sludge hauling, it now pays about $200,000, said General Manager Kevin Hardy.

Building the facilities to make the pellets cost about $20 million, he said, but much of those costs will be recovered by savings from hauling fewer tons per year.

“We wanted to take control of our biosolids destiny,” Hardy said. “We said there’s a business model here for us, and there’s technology here we can use.”

The new method for disposing of sludge also significantly reduced carbon emissions, he said.
The Oceanside City Council directed utilities officials to look into alternatives to hauling the sludge to Arizona. It will be at least six months before they present alternatives to the City Council, Dale said.



ARESST Treasurer Bob says that the simplest way to pay your ARESST annual membership dues is to hit the Donate button on the main page  of (right side under Help ARESST) and donate $20 using our secure PayPal system and if you are not already a member it will go towards your membership. If you want to provide more info. or to volunteer, please use our ARESST on-line application form (<-- click here).  Either way, you will get an acknowledgement and a thank-you from me. If not, call me at 250-721-5150 and let me know I am slipping up.

Bob Furber, ARESST Treasurer