April 18, 2012

ARESST News Blog



2012-2016 Draft Financial Plan - District of Saanich

Sewer costs – A significant proportion of sewer costs are from CRD regional Sewage Treatment.
CRD sewer charges increased by over 3.3% over last year due to operational cost increases and
to fund new Liquid Waste Management Plan mandated regional sewer treatment. (page 17)

- Prepare for impact of Sewage Treatment by CRD (page 64)



Waste not: By 2015, we'll all be doing 'the right thing' and recycling kitchen scraps

APRIL 15, 2012
The Capital Regional District is easing kitchen guilt.

A new bylaw means that instead of tossing slimy vegetables and mouldy bread into the garbage, they'll go into a recycling-type bin and eventually become high-grade compost.

As of 2015, kitchen scraps — everything from bones to greasy paper towels — will be banned from the Hartland landfill.

The lead-in time of nearly three years gives people a chance to get used to a new way of dealing with organic waste, estimated to make up 40 per cent of household garbage.

Ideally, the program would run much like recycling. Scraps would be tossed into a small indoor container, then transferred to a larger wheeled outside bin. On collection day, the contents would be taken to a plant for processing.

Kitchen-scrap collection is done in many cities throughout North America, as municipalities deal with finite resources and land for garbage, and a growing desire to "do the right thing."

It is estimated that the Hartland landfill will be full by 2035. Diverting kitchen waste — which now makes up 30 per cent of the landfill — could extend its life 12 years.

But the process has its critics, who worry about hygiene, an increase in rodents and the impact of processing plants on neighbourhoods.

"There's no doubt there will be a lot of questions and education will be key," said Russ Smith, the CRD's senior manager of environmental resource management.

"But these things are already in your garbage right now. We're not introducing a new waste stream, just dealing with [it] in a different way."

Smith has been struck with how keen residents and businesses are on the project, which was approved by the CRD board last week.

"There seems to be a significant interest in turning these scraps into a value-added resource, instead of them going to the landfill," he said.

"Another consistent message we heard from the public is that they want to do the right thing and they really don't like putting scraps in the garbage."

Several municipalities in the region already have kitchen-scrap collection or are planning to start it. Each municipality will determine how it picks up and disposes of the waste in order to comply with the CRD ban.

The CRD will offer a rebate of $20 per tonne for separated loads of kitchen scraps in 2013 and 2014.

As well, a 20 per cent surcharge will be added in 2014 to any garbage loads containing kitchen scraps that go to Hartland.

The CRD will be issuing short-term tenders for processing, but doesn't envision looking after it in the long term. It sees the private sector stepping in to take advantage of a ripe business opportunity: The region has about 30,000 tonnes of kitchen scraps each year — an amount CRD staff estimate could generate 17,000 tonnes of finished compost.

There are some processors in the region, but none large enough to deal with that volume.



APRIL 12, 2012
OTTAWA - Municipalities across Canada are urging the federal government to take a second look at the tax hike implications of proposed regulations to crack down on water pollution from sewage treatment plants.

Although Environment Canada has previously estimated in internal briefing notes that it would cost about $20 billion over two decades to address threats to human and environmental health from existing wastewater infrastructure, the department has publicly estimated the price tag of its proposed regulations at $10 to $13 billion over 30 years.

But led by Atlantic mayors on Thursday, the cities, which all support adopting the regulations, said that even the highest estimates may be conservative and neglect the true cost of upgrading systems that will eventually fall on taxpayers.

"I think there will be a surprise in terms of what that number will really look like once these regulations are finally determined," said Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly in an interview.

Kelly and other Atlantic Canada mayors adopted a resolution Thursday calling on the federal government to revise its estimates and develop a cost-sharing plan between the three levels of government to achieve the regulations as part of a larger long-term infrastructure plan.

They also noted previous estimates that have identified $123 billion in spending required to bring municipal infrastructure up to acceptable levels and have asked their national umbrella group, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, to launch a national campaign to resolve these issues.

The proposed regulations would target an estimated 150 billion litres of sewage that are released every year into Canadian waterways, according to internal briefing notes that were prepared for Environment Minister Peter Kent when he took over the portfolio in 2011.

The briefing material suggested that the regulations were slated to be implemented by the spring of 2011, but the government has not yet introduced a final plan.

"As different orders of governments deal with their financial challenges, it's the kind of thing that obviously is making most of us closest to the grassroots most concerned that as solutions flow downward, that there's a potential risk there," said Berry Vrbanovic, a city councillor from Kitchener, Ont., who is also president of the federation.

Kelly also questioned whether upcoming cuts in federal departments would have an impact on implementation and enforcement of future regulations.

Kent's office indicated in July that it was reviewing comments from municipalities and communities and aiming to introduce final regulations by the end of 2011.

Kent declined requests for an interview Thursday, referring questions about estimates to his department.




Researchers said Wednesday they have conclusive evidence that ocean acidification is at least partly responsible for killing oysters on the West Coast.

Craig Welch
Seattle Times 

It's been eight years since baby oysters started dying by the billions at an Oregon hatchery and in Washington's Willapa Bay.

In 2009, top scientists drew global attention when they said evidence suggested the culprit might be changing ocean chemistry from the same greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. They just couldn't prove it — until now.

Researchers said Wednesday they can definitively show that ocean acidification is at least partly responsible for massive oyster die-offs at the hatchery in Netarts Bay, Ore.

It's the first concrete finding in North America that carbon dioxide being taken up by the oceans already is helping kill marine species.

"This is the smoking gun for oyster larvae," said Richard Feely, an oceanographer and leading marine-chemistry researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle and one of the paper's authors.

Said Alan Barton, another of the paper's authors: "It's now an incontrovertible fact that ocean chemistry is affecting our larvae."

In a paper published this week in the journal Limnology and Oceanography, the scientists studied the water that gets pumped from the Pacific Ocean into the Whiskey Creek Hatchery, which supplies baby shellfish for most of the West Coast's $110 million-a-year oyster industry.

Here's why: Since 2005, wild oysters along the Washington coast and at the hatchery had been dying inexplicably in their larval stages. At first the suspect was a bacterial disease, but hatchery workers soon noticed that the die-offs only occurred after high winds drew water from the ocean deep.

Unlike the complex mechanics of climate change, ocean acidification is just basic chemistry. Scientists long had predicted that as carbon dioxide from fossil fuels gets taken up by the seas, ocean waters — typically slightly alkaline — would slide closer to the acidic side of the pH scale. They just expected it would take 50 to 100 years.

But Feely and other top researchers in 2007 and 2008 had discovered that the pH of marine waters along the West Coast had dropped decades earlier than expected.

Netarts Bay naturally experiences a wide range of ocean-chemistry fluctuations, and the Northwest's regular wind-driven upwelling events are what drive nutrients to the surface, making the West Coast one of the world's most-productive marine systems. But Feely and other scientists began to suspect that deep water was the real problem.

Because deep, dark water is so far removed from sunlight and photosynthesis, it already contains more carbon dioxide than surface water. The researchers suspected that when ocean acidification from greenhouse gases was added in, the pH of water was pushed over the edge for some oyster species.

There were reasons to think they were right. The Pacific oyster, an import from Japan, is particularly vulnerable to more acidic waters. Its shells are formed from an easily eroded form of calcium carbonate and its larvae get more exposure to marine waters than those of native oysters, like the Olympia.

So, to be certain, the scientists took water from the hatchery and controlled it for temperature and bacteria and pollutants. They let oysters grow in water from the surface and water that upwelled from the deep.

But only when the wind blew and drew corrosive waters from the deep just as oysters were spawning did the shellfish not survive to adulthood.

"We'd develop the eggs and that egg development would look good, but they'd grow a little bit and two days later they'd still be the same size and two days after that they'd all be dead," Barton said.

Burke Hales, an Oregon State University chemical oceanographer and the study's lead author, said they found that the corrosive water was most dangerous just before the oysters developed their shells.

"It's not that the shell dissolved," he said. "It's that their ability to make shells was very critically affected."

The most significant part of their work, scientists said, was that they were using real marine water under normal conditions, not seawater manipulated based on computer models.

"This is not just some lab experiment," Barton said. "This is real ocean water — from today, not from some predicted future — impacting shell formation. It's a pretty important finding."

Said George Waldbusser, a professor of ocean ecology and biogeochemistry at Oregon State University: "We're not talking about something we may see a few hundred years into the future. It's now."

For now, the hatchery has been able to grow oysters again by controlling when it takes in water and by adding in calcium carbonate when needed. But the oyster industry in general is gravely concerned about the future in part because ocean chemistry problems are expected to get worse.

Not only is ocean acidification expected to grow more severe in coming years, but one predicted impact of climate change is more frequent upwelling events.

"There are things that could compound all these issues," Waldbusser said.

Olympia oysters from a tank at University of Washington's ocean acidification research lab at Friday Harbor.


Larry Pynn
Victoria Times Colonist
Postmedia News
April 14, 2012

Tides come and go in the Salish Sea.

Sometimes entire species vanish almost unnoticed on the ebb of history.

And sometimes - to widespread astonishment - those same species ride the currents of conservation back home again.

Humans have exacted a terrible toll on our region's marine life over the past 150 years, through commercial whaling, reckless overfishing, and bounties, culls, and commercial harvests of harbour seals and sea lions.

Without question, the ecological effect of those actions continues to be felt today.

But there are also signs that the Salish Sea - the shared inland waters of Juan de Fuca Strait, Strait of Georgia, and Washington state's Puget Sound - is stirring and, who knows, may once again approach its former greatness.

Thanks to conservation efforts, one marine mammal after another is making a dramatic comeback, their presence providing the biggest reason for hope across an ecosystem spanning 7,000 square kilometres.

Steller sea lions have thrived since the federal government afforded them protection in 1970 - with new abundance estimates pegging their population at 48,000 animals in winter on B.C.'s coast.

The breeding population had dipped to an estimated 3,400 animals before their protection.

Similarly, harbour seals today total an estimated 105,000 animals, one of the densest such populations on Earth, compared with fewer than 15,000 in the late 1960s.

All those nutritious blubbery bodies are proving irresistible to mammal-eating killer whales known as "transients."

About 120 transients are known to visit the Strait of Georgia, surpassing an endangered population of fish-eating resident killer whales thought to number 88 in three pods - a story that sadly runs counter to the others.

Humpback whales are now found year-round on our coast, while a genetically distinct population of grey whales with unique feeding habits makes regular forays off Vancouver.

For the first time in memory, fin whales - the second-largest animal on Earth, after the blue whale - have been spotted near the north end of the Strait of Georgia past Campbell River.

Hundreds of Pacific whitesided dolphins now call the strait home, including Howe Sound - an area that is experiencing an ecological reawakening after the treatment of mine effluent, the closure of a pulp mill and the restoration efforts of streamkeepers.

And the car-sized northern elephant seal - once reduced to fewer than 100 individuals - now numbers up to 200,000 from Mexico to Alaska.

The dramatic return of so many marine mammals at the top of the food chain also suggests good productivity at the bottom, for predators cannot thrive without the fish and smaller creatures upon which they prey. But there are also dozens of species that are not doing as well in the Salish Sea, a complex and poorly understood ecosystem.

A study by the SeaDoc Society - based in the San Juan Islands and affiliated with the Wildlife Health Center at the University of California, Davis - has found a total of 113 species to be threatened, endangered, or candidates for listing by state, provincial or federal levels of government.

Included in the most recent count: 56 species of bird such as the western grebe and Brandt's cormorant; 37 fish such as salmon and rockfish; 15 mammals; three invertebrates; and two reptiles.

Those 113 threatened species are almost double from the 64 identified two years ago, a reflection, in part, of a growing awareness among government managers who officially list species as being at risk.

It's a critical step in the recovery process.

As marine mammals have shown, sometimes the public policy fixes are simple. All it took was for governments to formally put an end to the killing to allow populations to begin to recover.

Other species are not so easy. The challenges are greater with, say, salmon, whose survival depends equally on protected spawning habitat far upstream from the Salish Sea, or birds that depend on nesting grounds as far north as the Arctic. Scott Wallace is a sustainable fisheries analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation who studied changes in the ecology of the Salish Sea ecosystem over a century as part of his PhD thesis 15 years ago at the University of British Columbia.

Pointing to depressed stocks of groundfish species such as rockfish, lingcod, halibut and Pacific cod in the strait, Wallace questions whether the Salish Sea will ever achieve the productivity of pre-European contact.

Still, there remains much to be celebrated. "It is by no means a dead sea," he emphasized. "It's a thriving live ecosystem, still extremely productive - an incredible resource on the back door of a major city."

Co-managing species that share international waters is the wave of the future, says Rob Williams, a research fellow with the sea mammal research unit at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland who works extensively on the B.C. coast.

Canada and the U.S. have the chance to show global leadership through the conservation of resident killer whales.

"That would be progressive by any country's standards, making sure that a valued and critically endangered predator gets access to prey," he said. "If we can do that with killer whales, we should be doing it with sharks, seabirds, and all sorts of things."



ARESST: This should raise good alarms for ARESSTers because right now, the CRD sewage project isn't even covered by the BC environmental review process,
so if the feds pull their review of the sewage plan, there will be NO adequate review! Nobody will be doing a rigorous scientific, evidence-based review that will have a 
true public-participation component. Shame!


Environmental assessments for oil, gas, mining projects to be streamlined; larger role for provinces

Louise Dickson and Peter O'neil
Times Colonist; Postmedia News
April 18, 2012

B.C. environmentalists are accusing the federal government of abdicating its responsibility to protect the environment by letting the provinces take over reviews of natural resource projects.

Canadians depend on the federal government to safeguard our environment and our families from toxic contamination and other environmental problems, Rachel Forbes, counsel for West Coast Environmental Law, said Tuesday.

"And they are walking away from it. We have an international reputation which is completely soiled. All of these changes are being made so we can exploit oil and toxic minerals like uranium as fast as possible and export them to make quick money at the long-term expense of our country and our environmental health," she said.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver announced that federal reviews will be consolidated into three departments, rather than more than 40, and federal efforts will focus on reviews of major projects.

He said the federal government will accept provincial assessments as long as their processes are consistent with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake embraced the federal plan, saying B.C. should be seen as a trustworthy steward of the environment. "We're happy to see a 'one project, one process' approach - we've been advocating that for a number of years," he said.

In the past, some projects faced both federal and provincial reviews.

"We have a very thorough, comprehensive review process in British Columbia and we've advocated for a long time to give our process equivalency so that taxpayers' dollars are used more efficiently, there's less duplication and overlap, and a more timely decision."

Critics have questioned the province's resolve, citing its approval of a mining project near Williams Lake that was subsequently rejected by Ottawa.

The province will consider legislative changes to ensure B.C.'s laws are consistent with federal laws, Lake said.

Ottawa, which is giving provinces some authority to issue project authorizations under the federal Fisheries Act, should be prepared to compensate provinces if they're asked to enforce a federal statute, he said.

"I want to make sure we're not being expected to do something that normally would have been done by the federal government, and still needs to be done but comes at a cost to British Columbians," Lake said.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May, MP for SaanichGulf Islands, said the federal government may be abdicating its constitutional responsibility to protect fish and fish habitat and could be open to a legal challenge.

"In this case, there's a lot of development that affects fish," said May. "The Enbridge pipeline proposal would cross hundreds of streams and rivers on its nearly 1,200-kilometre-long path through northern B.C.

This is basically saying the federal government will retreat from these areas."

May said it is astonishing that environmental groups will not be allowed to participate in review hearings.

In an effort to expedite reviews, Oliver said the government is looking at limiting the scope of environmental groups to intervene in regulatory hearings for major natural resource projects. Only those with a "direct stake" will have an opportunity to express themselves.

May called that a backward step. "Public participation rights under the environmental assessment act have always been understood to include the public interest including environmental groups and industry groups. You can often have very important environmental impacts that are of concern to people beyond those that live in the neighbourhood." ldickson@timescolonist.com



Terry Lake said B.C. should be seen as a trustworthy steward of the environment

Vancouver Sun
April 17, 2012

OTTAWA --- B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake enthusiastically embraced the federal government's plan announce Tuesday to let provinces run environmental reviews of natural resource projects, but said Victoria may ask for federal money to handle that new responsibility.

Lake also said B.C. should be seen as a trustworthy steward of the environment even though the province approved a mining project near Williams Lake that was subsequently rejected by Ottawa in a "scathing" 2010 report on Taseko Mines Ltd.'s Prosperity copper-gold project.

"We're happy to see a 'one project, one process' approach, we've been advocating that for a number of years," Lake said in an interview after federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver announced details of Ottawa's plans.

Oliver said the Harper government will consolidate federal reviews into three departments, rather than more than 40, and will focus federal efforts on reviews of major projects.

He also said the federal government will accept provincial assessments as long as their processes are consistent with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

"We have a very thorough, comprehensive review process in British Columbia and we've advocated for a long time to give our process equivalency so that taxpayers dollars are used more efficiently, there's less duplication and overlap, and a more timely decision," Lake said.

The provincial government will consider legislative changes to ensure that the province's laws are consistent with federal laws, he added.

But he said Ottawa, which is giving provinces some authority to issue project authorizations under the federal Fisheries Act, should be prepared to compensate provinces if they're being asked to enforce a federal statute.

"On behalf of British Columbians I want to make sure we're not being expected to do something that normally would have been done by the federal government, and still needs to be done but comes at a cost to British Columbians," Lake said.

Oliver was asked if the government was comfortable giving provinces such authority given the experience with the B.C. government's review of Taseko's proposed open-pit copper and gold mine.

The province approved the project but federal approval was denied in a 2010 decision that Jim Prentice, then the Conservative environment minister, called "scathing" due to its assessment of the company's plan to turn a trout-rich lake into a tailings pond.

"Once a decision is taken that the province has a regulatory system comparable to the national system, that it has the capacity to do a comprehensive scientific, objective environmental review, then the authority for doing the review is transferred to the provinces and we don't second-guess their conclusion," Oliver replied.

Environmentalists immediately denounced on Tuesday Oliver's announcement, citing the Taseko decision as proof some provincial regulators will put economic interests ahead of the environment.

"I'd question B.C.'s current ability to offer the level of environmental protection we need through the assessment process," said Matt Horne of the Pembina Institute.

"When you add B.C.'s big push for mining, shale gas and liquified natural gas development, and no increase in the provincial budget for environmental assessment, those concerns become even bigger."

But Lake suggested that B.C. is getting an unfair rap over the Taseko decision, which is now being reconsidered by federal authorities following a revised submission from the company.

"That was the one case in British Columbia in which the federal decision was different from the provincial decision, but it's not quite as simple as people make it sound, because the provincial certificate had over 100 conditions attached to it . . . to mitigate or offset environmental impact."

Lake added that the province, unlike Ottawa, took into account the off-setting social and economic benefits resulting from the jobs and economic activity that would be generated from the mine.

Prentice, who served in Harper's cabinet as aboriginal affairs and later environment minister, said he supports the federal government's push to streamline the review process.

"I think we have to trust the provinces to have and to develop an environmental assessment process that's of the requisite standards," Prentice, now a senior vice-president at CIBC, said in an interview.

"Personally I think provinces are appropriate stewards, but in circumstances where there are either sign interprovincial implications, or you have significant First Nations implications, then the federal government has to be involved."

Green Party leader Elizabeth May said the federal plans could run into a legal barrier due to the proposal to allow provinces to issue authorizations under the Fisheries Act.

She said fisheries is a clear federal responsibility under the Constitution.


Read his blog, Letter from Ottawa, at vancouversun.com/oneil