April 2, 2012

LETTER: VICTORIA NEEDS TO CHANGE WAY IT IS MANAGED (sewage-treatment plant mention)



Robert Freeman
Chilliwack Progress
March 26, 2012 11:45 AM

All proposed waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities, no matter what size, will be reviewed under new regulations, B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake announced Monday in Chilliwack.

Lake told reporters that he was making the announcement to clear up "misinformation" that Metro Vancouver is going ahead with plans to build a WTE facility without consulting the Fraser Valley Regional District.

Metro Vancouver's solid waste management plan, which includes the possibility of a WTE facility, has been approved by the ministry, but Lake said no "concrete" WTE method is on the table.

Under the existing regulation, a WTE facility must reach a certain size before a full environmental assessment is triggered.

"What we're announcing today is that all WTE (facilities) in the Lower Mainland or Fraser Valley, no matter what size they are, will have to go through a full and mandatory environmental assessment because of the strengthening of the regulations," Lake said.

"We know that air quality is a critical issue for residents of the Fraser Valley," he added, "so we wanted to assure people that whatever proposal comes forward (at Metro Vancouver) that it will undergo the most rigourous environmental review possible in B.C.," he said.

Public hearings are required under the environmental review process.

"All residents of the Fraser Valley will have the ability for full input into the environmental assessment process," Lake said. "All concerns will be taken into account in that way."


LETTER: VICTORIA NEEDS TO CHANGE WAY IT IS MANAGED (sewage-treatment plant mention)
Ian Phillips
Times Colonist
March 27, 2012

Re: "Victoria city hall needs to sharpen its pencils," March 23.

The writers make a number of valid suggestions for change at city hall but miss the mark with their request that the city "plan a balanced budget for the next five years."

With the aging of the city's infrastructure, a considerable amount of money will soon be required to repair or replace the hundreds of kilometres of paved streets, storm drains and sanitary sewers. In addition, property owners are looking at significant tax hikes for major projects such as the sewage-treatment plant and the light rapid transit.

Another possible source of revenue is from economic development, but I don't see this as being a source that can be counted on, not with the way city hall processes development applications. The council provides little clear direction to potential developers and its own staff.

The city has turned into a sea of bureaucracy and spin.

The writers also mention the "city needs a wholesale internal review of services, systems and staffing." They need look no further than Langford to get a lesson on how to manage a city the correct way.

The City of Victoria and its citizens will soon be faced with desperate times if its political and senior management team don't acknowledge that it needs to change its ways and take action immediately.

Ian Phillips


Jamie Kyles
Times Colonist
March 31, 2012

Hard to know where to start after the last couple of weeks of revelations by Victoria city hall.

1. A $15.8-million cost increase before any work has been done on the new bridge. What, exactly, are city engineers and contract negotiators paid for, if not to ensure proper cost estimates for major projects before decisions to proceed are made? I see absolutely no accountability anywhere.

Voters beware of the billion-dollar LRT if these folks can't even manage a $100-million project.

2. "Structural inadequacies" identified as cause of part of this increase - are we really building such a unique architectural wonder that the design experts are allowed this kind of basic error?

3. City hall says, "Don't worry, taxes still won't go up." Do they really think the voters are that stupid, when we see sewage plants, new pools, accommodation for the entire homeless population, ridiculous talk of LRT and so on looming in our tax future?

4. Due to cost control we can no longer plan to stand "in the wheel" when the bridge is raised. How on earth, in a time of supposed cost consciousness, did this ridiculous, unnecessary and no-doubt costly option get accepted in the first place?

Where is the "fit for purpose" basic bridge that should be under consideration in this time of financial stress?

Jamie Kyles



New Scientist
29 March 2012 by Phil McKenna

A fuel cell powered by naturally occurring bacteria has successfully converted 13 per cent of the energy in sewage to electricity – and cleaned the waste water at the same time. It's hoped genetic engineering could make this much more efficient.

Treating sewage and other liquid waste uses roughly 2 per cent of the US energy supply, at a cost of $25 billion a year, yet this carbon-rich material harbours nine times the energy needed to render it environmentally benign. Microbiologists believe they can drastically cut the cost and power consumption by using genetically modified bugs to treat the waste and produce electricity.

"It's a substantial energy resource that we just end up landfilling," says Orianna Bretschger, of the J. Craig Venter Institute in San Diego, California. "If we could recover the energy we could do waste water treatment for free."

Bretschger described a 380-litre microbial fuel cell at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego this week. It uses naturally occurring microbes to break down organic waste and produce electrons and protons. The electrons are collected by an anode while the protons pass through a permeable membrane to a cathode. The resulting voltage between the two electrodes enables the fuel cell to produce an electric current.

Major improvement

The announcement represents a significant improvement over the institute's earlier fuel cell, a 75-litre device able to harvest only 2 per cent of the waste's potential energy. Further improvements will be needed, however, for the technology to compete with conventional waste water treatment techniques, which can rapidly process huge volumes of water.

By genetically modifying microbes to enhance their ability to consume organic waste, and better shuttling electrons to an electrode, Bretschger hopes to harvest 30 to 40 per cent of the available energy.

Genetically modified organisms aren't currently used in either municipal or commercial waste water treatment facilities. Their potential use in a fuel cell would be regulated in the US by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has yet to determine how to govern such applications.

Natural competition

Conventional waste water treatment, however, already has ways of killing microbes before water gets back into the environment, including the use of chlorine, ozone and ultraviolet light. The EPA also recently granted permission for a pilot study in which genetically modified microbes were used as tracers to find leaks from sewers.

Roland Cusick, an environmental engineer at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, says genetically engineered microbes may boost efficiency, but it may be difficult to control the bug population. "Waste water has millions of microbes in it. Any time you are adding waste water, you are adding competition to your system," Cusick says.


APRIL 1, 2012
A Canadian researcher is at the centre of a provocative new international study that puts an eye-popping price tag on the damage being done to the world's oceans and fisheries - a cost that could reach $2 trillion a year by 2100 - from carbon emissions, over-fertilization, over-fishing and other human impacts.

University of British Columbia fisheries economist Rashid Sumaila, a leading critic of international fishing policies, is co-editor of the 300-page Valuing The Ocean report released last week at the high-profile Planet Under Pressure environmental conference in Britain.

The study, touted as a "unique," monetary assessment of global ocean health and threats, is the latest attempt by ecosystem-conscious scientists to affix financial value to planetary resources taken for granted in traditional models of economic activity.

The idea, the researchers say, is to have citizens and policymakers experience a kind of sticker shock when "the actual monetary value of the critical ocean services that we stand to lose" is revealed through a scientific-economic calculation.

"By stressing the links between multiple marine stressors and the huge value of the vital services that the ocean provides to humankind," Sumaila told Postmedia News, contributors to the report "hope to help kick-start decisive, integrated action to strengthen ocean governance and management across all scales, from local to global."

The report, co-edited by Sumaila with Robert Diaz of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, encompasses studies from an international team of economists, ocean scientists and others who attempt to "tally the costs and savings associated with human decisions affecting ocean health," according to a summary of the publication.

Diaz said in a statement that the report provides an overview of "the state of the science for six threats to the global ocean, what can happen if all these threats act together, and the economic consequences of taking or not taking action."

Overall, the researchers estimate that eroding ocean health will translate - unless environmental reforms take hold - into a $428-million annual loss to the global economy within 40 years. That cost will rise to $1.979 trillion per year by the end of this century if nothing is done to curb detrimental human impacts on the oceans.

But the report also offers a glimmer of hope, concluding that aggressive measures to reduce harm to the oceans could constrain the yearly cost to about $600 million by the year 2100 - saving the global economy more than $1.4 trillion compared with the status-quo scenario.

"The cost of inaction will rise with every year we delay. Planning and acting now will save money - and livelihoods - in the future," Sumaila said in an email. "These potential costs, and the actual value of the services the ocean currently provides - from food (think fish) to storm protection to tourism and transport - must be fully integrated in broader economic and development plans, and incorporated in the intricate business of climate change accounting (including in Canada with its three oceans)."

The project was coordinated by the Swedish-based Stockholm Environment Institute, which said in a statement that "the ocean is the victim of a massive market failure," and that "the true worth of its ecosystems, services, and functions is persistently ignored by policy-makers and largely excluded from wider economic and development strategies."

Sumaila said that "the combined global and local threats to the ocean are unprecedented in human history. Incremental change and business-as-usual will not suffice."

But the global ocean crisis "can be rectified," the UBC researcher added, "if the ocean and the services it provides are placed at the heart of global efforts to build a green economy for the future."