January 12, 2012

BIOSOLIDS ISSUES IN LOS ANGELES: "The politics of green"



CRD chair Geoff Young's Inaugural Speech to the Board on 11 January included focus on sewage treatment project. He notes that,  "The plan has been approved, and subject to funding, work will begin this year. He has asked Denise Blackwell to again chair CALWMC and to focus on establishing a project office and a Commission to administer the program, initiating a procurement process and finalizing the tripartite agreement with Canada and Province of BC. Director Wergeland will be vice-chair. As well as returning to be a member of CALWMC, Barb Desjardins will chair the Environmental Sustainability Committee, with Young's direction that the ESC "contemplate some more concrete thinking towards integration of water and sewer services regionally." Additional CALWMC changes include switching to the ESC responsibility for stormwater, harbours & watersheds, source control, and inflow &infiltration.

CRD Environmental Engineering will complete the Core Area inflow &infiltration management plan, as well as a business case and feasibility study for wastewater heat recovery at UVic, Arbutus School, Queen Alexandra Hospital and Queenswood. 

2012 CALWMC chair Blackwell, vice chair Wergeland, members: Alto, Brice, Brownoff, Derman, Desjardins, Fortin, Hamilton, Hill, Isitt, Jensen, Leonard, Young.  

2012 ESC chair Desjardins, vice chair Mendum, members Brownoff, Bryson, Derman, Hamilton, Howe, Jensen, Milne, Young (ex-officio).

CRD Directors Isitt, Wergland, Brice and Young delivering his Inaugural Speech




A study by METOC of the discharge of preliminary treated wastewater in to the Little Russel via the Belle Greve Outfall.

Historically, wastewater has been discharged to the Little Russel through the Belle Greve long sea outfall (LSO), after receiving preliminary treatment. Environmental monitoring over a number of years has not appeared to identify any significant impacts of this approach (for example bathing waters quality sampling, shellfish flesh sampling).

Guernsey Wastewater is keen to understand the potential implications the current discharge regime might have with regard to the impact on the environment, the impact on bathing waters and shellfish harvesting areas and it appointed Metoc to undertake a study of the issue.

This report describes the method for the assessment of the current wastewater disposal strategy against key Directive standards. It uses a combination of predictive modelling approaches and field data collection to establish the likely impacts of the Belle Greve discharge, in the context of these Directives.


BBC News Guernsey
9 January 2012

A presentation on sewage treatment has been opened up to the public.

The Public Services Department has invited any interested members of the public to the event at Beau Sejour Leisure Centre on Thursday.

report on sewage treatment, based on a marine study, will be put to the States of Guernsey later in the month.

The presentation will begin at 19:00 GMT and will be led by Richard Dannatt of Intertek METOC, the company which carried out the marine study.


From: Richard Dannatt Intertek <richard.dannatt@intertek.com>  
Wed, Jan 11, 2012 at 1:36 AM
To: John Newcomb <newcombjohnhoward@gmail.com>

Glad you got hold of the report.  I had seen the ARESST website previously.
It is important that science drives these arguments.  In most of the studies I have undertaken, I wouldn’t begin to suggest no treatment is required – but many of these studies are for a densely packed UK coastline where individual populations not only have individual impacts, but aggregate with other impacts
Where the opportunity arises to avoid environmental impact (whilst still managing the health risks associated with the possibility of pathogens) then we should probably take it.  This means avoiding treatment sludge production, management and disposal where these become the major impacts – if they aren’t actually improving quality in any meaningful sense.
In many cases in my experience there isn’t the desire, budget or timeframe to conduct a proper scientific assessment, which I think can often lead to inappropriate investment – both excessive and insufficient levels of treatment can occur.
I am sure the public meeting on Thursday will be interesting!


Tessa Holloway
North Shore News 
January 10, 2012 

Both North Vancouver mayors will play leading roles at Metro Vancouver in the upgrade of the Lions Gate Wastewater Treatment Plant.

District of North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton is no longer vice-chairman of the Metro board, a position he held for three years, but will instead chair the finance committee, which has to give the green light to all major expenditures undertaken by Metro.

Meanwhile, City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto will chair the utilities commission, which will shepherd the expensive sewage plant upgrade through the regional government.

“I think it shows in the region a lot of confidence in both Richard and myself and the North Shore in general that they’re willing to have two high-profile committees chaired by the two mayors of North Vancouver,” said Mussatto.

He described the plant upgrade as the biggest cost facing Metro, likely upwards of $400-million. That is the estimate to convert the Lions Gate plant to secondary treatment from primary treatment, something the federal government now requires.

Richmond’s Iona sewage plant also requires an update, though is second on the priority list.

To date, the federal and provincial governments have not committed to contributing to the Lions Gate conversion. If they don’t, local taxpayers could see utility fees increase eightfold by 2030, according to a Metro report.

“Of course there’s a lot of public concern over the extent of the increases,” said Walton. “But the increases that come to Metro to a great extent reflect how much provincial and federal contribution there’s been.”

The utilities committee is actually a new creation, combining the previous water committee with the sewage function of the waste committee. The solid waste function will fall to a new zero waste committee, which will be tasked with whether to build a new incinerator or continue to bury the region’s garbage.

The Lower Mainland Treaty Advisory Committee, previously a separate body, has been brought inside the Metro Vancouver umbrella to become the aboriginal affairs committee,.

The Labour Relation Bureau’s board has been disbanded leaving the future of regional collective bargaining hanging in limbo.

Mussatto will also sit on the port committee, which he chaired in the previous term of council, and has been chosen by Metro board chairman Greg Moore of Port Coquitlam for the regional planning and agriculture committee as well, though he said he will recommend Coun. Rod Clark for that spot instead.

The port committee continues to negotiate a new tax arrangement with the port, which has previously written cheques in lieu of taxes based on its own assessments rather than B.C. assessments, which municipalities say have shortchanged them by millions of dollars. Mussatto said he expects a resolution to that problem within the next year.

Coun. Don Bell represents the city on the housing committee.

West Vancouver is represented by Couns. Michael Lewis on the finance committee, Trish Panz at utilities and Mary-Ann Booth on the aboriginal affairs committee. Booth emphasized the need for West Vancouver to be at the table with aboriginal issues.

“The Squamish Nation is a big part of our community,” she said. “I know that they’re going through some changes and that the relationship between West Vancouver and the first nations community is really important.”

The District of North Vancouver is also represented by Couns. Alan Nixon, Mike Little, Robin Hicks and Roger Bassam on a total of eight of the 12 committees, giving them the same representation as the more populous Coquitlam and Delta, and more than Langley Township.

“It to me (the announcement) is about how well the district is represented at the table,” said Walton.

All the appointments were made by Moore and are still subject to change.

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BIOSOLIDS ISSUES IN LOS ANGELES: "The politics of green"

Sharon Gilbert
Los Angeles County 
Political Buzz Examiner
January 5, 2011

Some would say the average politician is full of . . . eh . . . biosolids.  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  Politicians are, however, very aware of the green associated with them.  We're not talking about the green waste that is sometimes mixed with biosolids to make compost.  Rather this is the greenback variety that can add up to hundreds of millions of wasted taxpayer dollars.  That is where the second part of this story begins.

The average person doesn't think of the disposal of biosolids as political or controversial.  Dare we suggest, the average person doesn't think of biosolids at all.  But they should.  Taxpayer money is being flushed down the toilet with those biosolids and being used to line the pockets of those promoting green technology with claims that border on snake oil.  Those Wall Street-funded snake oil salesmen have been very successful in convincing government jurisdictions to buy into what they have to offer, whether it works or not.  That seems especially true with entities such as the Orange County Sanitation District, the city of San Bernardino, and the city of Rialto.

Our first story centered around EnerTech, a Georgia-based firm, flush with cash from Wall Street and expecting huge profits, which built its first facility in Rialto, California.  The facility collects biosolids from five local wastewater treatment plants.  EnerTech is contracted to process biosolids to remove liquid and turn them into "green" pellets to be used by a local cement kiln as an alternative to coal.  What sets this process apart from the traditional drying of biosolids is that it is supposed to use less energy to make the pellets than the pellets, or SlurryCarb, will produce, thus providing a net energy increase, making it "green" energy.

The process simply doesn't work.  But the snake oil salesmen have convinced jurisdictions to pay significantly more to dispose of their biosolids in this manner.  Our mission was to find out how much more.  And what a mission it has been.

"You're not going to get me fired are you?"  "This is very political."  As I attempted to get someone . . . anyone . . . to go on the record, those are the phrases I heard over and over.  Even some California Public Records Act requests have been met with resistance or completely ignored.

The first jurisdiction to comply with our request was the Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD).  OCSD is the key to the overall story for several reasons.

Without the OCSD contract, the facility in Rialto will likely have to close down.  But EnerTech has been in breach of its contract with OCSD since February 2009.  During the past 12 months while EnerTech has been attempting to comply with its contractual obligations, OCSD alone has spent approximately $1.3 million more on this failed technology than had it simply contracted to have its biosolids land-applied or transported to a composting facility.

EnerTech has asked OCSD to give them another 18 months to fine tune the SlurryCarb process in an attempt to be in compliance with their contract.   That "fine tuning" will cost anywhere from $10 to 20 million with no guarantee it will work.  That figure does not include the extra $1.8 million in costs to the taxpayers of Orange County.  After over three years of EnerTech operating in Rialto, how much more time and taxpayer money is the Board going to give them?  Is this the best use of taxpayer dollars?
This is where the politics comes in.  The 25-member Board of Directors of the OCSD is made up of 21 city council members/mayors from around Orange County, a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, and three members from the sanitary/water districts in the county.  

No one from the OCSD Board of directors has been willing to talk with us on the record, but we have been told that some of those on the board are actually considering giving Wall Street's EnerTech the additional time despite the additional costs with no guarantee of success.  Apparently, they are less concerned with abuse of taxpayer money and more concerned with appearing "green" whether or not the technology works.

As those who spoke to us off the record said, "It's political."  Politics is apparently more important than being good stewards of the funds entrusted to them by their constituents.  A final decision is expected at the January 26, 2011 meeting of the OCSD Board of Directors.



With rising costs, diminishing returns and limited budgets, officials in King County, Washington state and around the country are questioning further work to control combined sewer overflow.

Lynda V. Mapes
Seattle Times 
2 January 2012

With billions of dollars at stake, local and state officials around the country are questioning the cost and benefit of continued work to control combined sewer overflow (CSO), including here in Seattle, where more than $1.2 billion in ratepayer dollars are on the table.

King County has outlines of a control plan to limit pollution from overflows of small amounts of raw sewage from some storm drains during heavy rain. CSO work has been under way in Seattle and King County for decades, and pollution from overflows already is greatly reduced.

But getting the last percentages of control is very expensive. It's so expensive that it could siphon off the region's capacity to do other environmental work, local officials say, even though study after study has shown stormwater runoff, not the remaining volume of combined sewer overflows, is the largest source of pollution to Puget Sound.

It used to be that clean-water advocates said the answer is eventually just to do everything. But as communities here and around the country see escalating spending and diminishing environmental return — and tighter budgets — the political ground is shifting.

"It's a different world," said Gerry O'Keefe, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. "The kinds of choices that are being made in Olympia these days force everyone to be much more focused and disciplined in what we can accomplish with the resources we have."

A public-comment period ended last week, and County Executive Dow Constantine will make recommendations on the plan to the Metropolitan King County Council in March. The council is scheduled to adopt a final plan by August.

The stakes are high.

Seattle is a city where voters just dumped a proposed $60-a-year car-tab fee, but residents may soon face a big increase in utility bills that already are among the highest in the country.

King County's $711 million plan pencils out to a wastewater rate increase for a typical customer of $7.61 a month by 2030. Seattle's plan costs $500 million and would raise rates by $7.41 a month by 2025 for a typical single-family customer. Seattle residents would pay both increases.

CSO work is so expensive, it's on track to eat nearly 40 percent of Seattle Public Utilities' $576 million 2012-2017 drainage and wastewater capital budget, the largest share dedicated to any single purpose by far.

All the costs penciled so far are estimates — they could all turn out to be much higher, analysts say.

Rules draw objections

Local officials have said they have no choice but to do the combined sewer-overflow work because of the way federal requirements under the Clean Water Act are implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state Department of Ecology.

Not only cost and benefits are at issue, but also the manner in which the control plans are formulated: by consent decrees overseen by the U.S. Department of Justice. Some local officials bearing the brunt of that enforcement approach are starting to balk.

"You are treated like a criminal," said Dave Berger, mayor of Lima, Ohio, for 23 years. His city has been working for nine years to get approval of a long-term control plan for combined sewer overflows, and watched the cost balloon from $45 million to $100 million — for a community of 83,000 people.

"It is a power relationship, not a partnership, and in the relationship they have the power to tell us what to do," Berger said of the EPA. "But I believe what is being done is a waste of resources and the wrong priority.

"For $35 million we have now addressed the large majority of the problem, and now we are being required to spend in excess of $100 million. Three times what we have already spent, on a fraction of the remaining problem."

So it goes around the country, including Seattle, where the last 1.3 billion gallons or so of effluent from combined sewer overflows — down from 30 times that in the 1970s — is slated to cost about $1 a gallon to manage.

In some other cities, local officials are pushing back. Mayor Jim Suttle, of Omaha, Neb., takes issue with the means by which "clean" is determined in the control plans.

The measurement counts how often overflows occur, not what's in them, their environmental effect or even their volume. Washington's state standard, adopted in 1986, is one overflow event on average per year per location — even stricter than the federal standard of four events.

To Suttle, scoring a cleanup by the number of times an overflow happens makes no sense. "It is like charging for electricity on the basis of how many times you turn on the lights, rather than how many kilowatts are used."

He and others said they are cautiously optimistic that in October, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson urged a new, flexible approach by EPA regional administrators that strives for cost-effective expenditures to achieve clean-water results.

And earlier this month, Ron Sims, a member of the Puget Sound Partnership leadership council, convened federal, state, local and tribal clean-water advocates and policymakers to stress the importance of devising a science-based plan for Puget Sound that makes the most of every dollar.

"There is only going to be so much money," Sims said. "If we just check boxes, we will lose the Sound. There has to be some CSO, but the issue is how much, and then how do we get to the other things?"

To Will Stelle, Northwest regional administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service, it's a long-overdue conversation. The agency's scientists are producing a growing body of data that documents lethal effects of stormwater on salmon in urban streams.

"Given the severity of the more ubiquitous stormwater impact on the aquatic system, maybe there are better benefits in using money to deal with the larger stormwater issues, and not just CSOs," Stelle said. "It is at the heart of the issue of trade-offs and bang for the buck."

Bremerton's saga

To some, the city of Bremerton provides a cautionary tale. After years of work on controlling CSOs beginning in 1994, the city opened its beaches for shellfish harvest in 2003 — one of the biggest clean-water victories out there, and achieving Gov. Chris Gregoire's oft-repeated goal of a "fishable, digable, swimmable" Puget Sound.

Yet the city had to keep going, spending about $17 million more for an eventual total of more than $50 million on 23 major capital projects to satisfy a lawsuit — and achieve Washington's control standard.

By the time that was done, the city had spent so much that wastewater rates went up 36 percent in 2007. Every city ratepayer will pay $3,600 over the 20-year life of the city's more than $40 million debt, or about $180 a year, city officials estimate.

"There ought to be some sort of cost benefit; at the point you have returns diminishing, you ought to stop," said Tom Knuckey, who helped lead the city's CSO projects. But that is not the way the [state] rule is written."

Looking ahead, Ted Sturdevant, director of the state Department of Ecology, said he is optimistic the state standard can be reached while still making progress on the bigger stormwater problem; it all depends on how the CSO work is done. "I don't see this as putting jurisdictions in a straitjacket and locking them into a long future of dumb investments," Sturdevant said.

Dennis McLerran, head of EPA Region 10, said he is open to a discussion of setting priorities as his agency works through consent decrees with Seattle and King County on CSO control plans.

All well and good, notes Constantine. But meanwhile, the federal government and Ecology are very actively pursuing a consent decree.

"The establishment of the consent decree, of having this box around combined sewer overflows, that would tie up a lot of resources." Constantine said. "But it wouldn't end the question of what else needs to be done. It just makes it far more difficult."

COMMENTS (currently 26):


Kim Westad
Times Colonist
January 08, 2012

Beth Hayhurst has walked the beaches near her Cordova Bay home almost every day for the past six years and has never seen so much debris - much of it with Asian markings - as in the past two months.

While Hayhurst, a photographer, cannot say with certainty that it is from the tsunami that hit Japan last March, she suspects it is and worries about local preparedness to deal with an anticipated wave of debris expected to wash up on North American shores by 2013.

"I feel very sombre and sad when I see the debris because of the suffering it represents," Hayhurst said. "But, speaking selfishly, it also makes me sad for what this beach might be in a year if we don't have a plan to clean it up."

Hayhurst and numerous other people on Vancouver Island, and along the coast of North America, have noticed what seems to be increasing amounts of Japanese debris.

Scientists doubt that the debris - everything from buoys to curtains to plastic bottles and coloured wood - is from the tsunami that swept tonnes of household items into the ocean. But they are cataloguing significant sightings.

Both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Hawaii have made computerized models of the debris.

Both models estimate that debris could wash ashore the west coast of North America by early next year.

NOAA's marine debris division recently set up a website for reported significant debris sightings - disasterdebris.noaa.gov. So far, about 30 reports, from B.C. to California, have come in, NOAA communications officer Dianna Parker said.

The increase in reports of suspected tsunami debris could be due to heightened awareness, although some of the lighter buoys, which can travel faster over water, might be from the tsunami, Parker said.

So far, there have been only two confirmed sightings of debris, both small fishing vessels, she said.

One was found by a Russian research vessel, northwest of the Hawaiian Islands in September, and another in July, closer to Japan. Both were from Fukushima.

"It is incredibly difficult to fingerprint pieces back to the tsunami," Parker said.

Marine debris washes ashore every day, including that with Japanese markings on them from ships at sea, she said.

NOAA and the University of Hawaii initially tracked the tsunami debris field via low resolution satellites. After April 14, the satellites could no longer pick up the field, which started to break up.

Although there have been reports of a debris field as large as 20 tonnes, Parker said that is misleading. In total, between 20 to 25 tonnes of debris were pushed out to sea by the tsunami. Just how much sank near shore and how much was pushed out to sea is not definitive, she said.

Whether it is 20 tonnes or half that, it is still going to present a problem on local shores where debris is an aberration from the norm. Hayhurst has found a lot of debris on Sayward Beach since the end of November. Usually, the beach, which has many nooks and crannies, picks up little garbage. The coloured planks of wood, large chunks of Styrofoam, curtains attached to wooden rods, sheets of insulation and smaller things like juice and water bottles - many with Asian markings - are new to the beach, Hayhurst said.

"I've never seen a bottle on the beach from anywhere other than Canada before."

Hayhurst has documented items she has found. They are on her blog, bethhayhurstblog.com/ unusual-beach-debris/.

B.C. has created a provincial tsunami debris co-ordinating committee.

Its members are to selected by next week. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration computerized model can be viewed at marinedebris.noaa.gov/info/ japanfaqs.html.


ARESST: Dr Keith Martin has moved on from ARESST as his new trajectory emerges, but he was a valuable member of ARESST. Video reflects
his commitment to our cause: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuKpePqSpP4


Natalie North
Saanich News
January 10, 2012 9:45 AM

Career change, as it is for many people, is among the top New Year’s resolutions for Keith Martin. The former Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP decided to step away from politics last May after speaking out against what he calls Ottawa’s hyper-partisan politics.

“I’m ultimately looking for a job – a permanent platform I could work from to address global health, conservation, environmental and policy challenges,” said Martin, the former physician who spent almost 20 years representing this region in Ottawa. “(I’m looking for) a nimble organization that is interested in using the knowledge that we have and helping to scale that knowledge up – bridging the knowledge-action gap.”

Martin has spent the past few months doing just that. His work has focused on partnering people doing ground-breaking research with those who could use the work to bring change. One example was connecting Dr. Hayat Sindi, a medical researcher and inventor of inexpensive cancer diagnostics, with a colleague of Martin’s who had recently received a grant to conduct breast cancer research in the Middle East.

“Our universities and scientists discover inventions and they publish them, but they’re not necessarily scaled up to be able to benefit the largest number of people,” Martin said.

From his View Royal home, Martin has also been contributing to aid efforts in the horn of Africa and co-ordinating the delivery of medical supplies to Libyan doctors who had been operating without anesthesia.

Earlier in 2011, he was asked to join the International Union for Conservation Nature, a group that includes 11,000 scientists. Martin created an online mechanism that connects political leaders to scientists in the union.

He also joined PEPFAR, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, as well as the Consortium of Universities for Global Health as a way to address issues regarding poverty, the environment, food security and endangered species.

Martin plans to continue his volunteer work while exploring career options.

But he has no regrets about stepping away from the current political climate that he says has stripped MPs of their power to affect change.

“It had become such a sad and tragic reality show where MPs were told to read off talking points, written by rabidly partisan 20-year-olds around the leadership of their parties. In times past in parliament, you could develop the partnerships to address the big issues, but now, tragically, in the House of Commons there is no place to do that.”

Still, Martin describes his time in parliament from 1993 to 2011 as an incredible honour.

His efforts did not go unappreciated. He was named as the most underrated MP on Parliament Hill in 2009 by CBC’s political pundit Rex Murphy. And when Martin officially retired in May, his friends in Greater Victoria were quick to sing his praises.

“He has done so much for the community, so much for the county,” said Bob Saunders, a Colwood business owner and Martin’s longtime friend who encouraged the one-time emergency room physician to try his hand at politics. “It’s a big loss to Canada.”

Martin’s friends and colleagues say he always stayed connected to his constituents while working on global issues in Ottawa.

“That gave me the opportunity to connect with people at home in Victoria and other areas, to address issues in the riding, in the country and internationally,” Martin said.

-with files from Edward Hill