May 13, 2012


TOXICS FROM EVERYDAY LIFE REACHING COLUMBIA RIVER (and going through a sewage treatment plant on their way there)



Good morning ARESST and supporters,

Yesterday I attended a Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee. There were no media present. There is no news on hoped for funding commitments from the Federal and Provincial Governments. There were many comments from committee members about the uncertainty of the project, whether a site in the inner harbour may be purchased for a sludge treatment plant (often referred to as an energy center), what will be happening at Hartland where there might be an energy center, would the DND property at MacCaulay point come available? Would the best technology be used etc. 

Some members such as Director Dean Fortin made speeches about how strongly they support this project. Several others clearly are sitting on their hands but Directors Hill, Derman and Dejardins voted against several of the motions at the committee and are more open doubters about the project.

Continued uncertainty is welcomed by ARESST. My comments to the committee are posted on the RSTV web site They finished with the following:

 “As far as I and many others are concerned the longer this funding commitment takes the better as there is more of a chance that there will be reconsideration of the merits of this whole project  whose preliminary cost is expected to be $791 Million with $14.5 Million annual operating costs. (It is going to cost at least ten times the cost of the Blue Bridge project and as with most large projects can be expected to have significant cost overruns.)

The science supporting the need is incredibly weak. There will be no measurable benefit from this vast expenditure of public funds.

In the last Novembers Municipal Elections you were provided with a long document from the Georgia Strait Alliance and the T Buck Suzuki Foundation. It contained 25 so called “Frequently Asked Questions”. The document contained a great deal of misinformation and what one person described to me as “Junk Science”. Each of the points have now been commented on and are available.

I hope that you will resolve in the future to question the decision to build land based secondary sewage treatment plants because these decisions have been based on perceptions and beliefs rather than the best science that is available.”

The “Countering Misinformation and Junk Science” is posted on the front page of the RSTV web site for now. If you have any suggestions for improving the wording of the RSTV comments I would welcome them and can make changes.

Shaun Peck
May 10th 2012



April 25, 2012 Environmental Sustainability Committee minutes:

Heat recovery discussion.


ARESST: Responding to a question from an ARESST member, I asked CRD if any changes to the current plans for disposing of sludge and email below is
what I received. Nothing new so far as I could tell...


From: Heather Raines <>
Date: Tue, May 8, 2012 at 8:55 AM
Subject: RE: Wastewater Comments
To: John Newcomb <>

Hello Mr. Newcomb,

Thank you for your comments.  As outlined in the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Plan Amendment No. 8, the sludge will be treated at the Energy Centre using anaerobic digesters.  The digesters will consume approximately 50% of the sludge and produce biosolids and biogas in the process.  The net production of biosolids from the digesters is estimated to be in the range of 14 to 16 tonnes per day (dry weight) in year 2030.  The biosolids are proposed to be shipped to cement kilns on the Lower Mainland for use as a fuel in the cement production operations.

Heather Raines
Assistant to the Project Director, Core Area Wastewater Treatment
Capital Regional District
625 Fisgard Street, Victoria, BC  V8W 2S6
Phone: 250.360.3192 Fax: 250.360.3270



2012 Spring Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

Chapter 3—Federal Contaminated Sites and Their Impacts

Property name and location: 
Victoria Coast Guard Base, Victoria, British Columbia. This location has four contaminated sites.

Classification and last step completed: 
Class 1—high priority for action; completed step 7, remediation strategy.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

The base covers a 7.26-hectare parcel of land on Shoal Point in Victoria, British Columbia. The site is the Regional Operations Centre for the Canadian Coast Guard’s Pacific Region. There are nine buildings on the property, some dating back to the 1970s. The site was previously occupied by various industrial operations. Site assessments identified contamination of about 91,000 cubic metres in soil, sediment, groundwater, and surface water in four areas. The contamination is being addressed by a combination of remediation and risk management measures. About 800 cubic metres is planned for remediation; the rest is to be risk managed.

Petroleum hydrocarbons (PHCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and metals.

Closure objectives: 
About $360,000 has been spent since 2005–06. There will be ongoing risk management, assuming no change in operations.


Judith Lavoie
Times Colonist
May 08, 2012

Skipper Sarah Verstegen at the helm of the Saanich Inlet Protection Society's sewage-pumping boat.
Skipper Sarah Verstegen at the helm of the Saanich Inlet Protection Society's sewage-pumping boat.

Saanich Inlet marinas were chock-a-block with recreational boaters Monday - and many of them were unwittingly breaking the law.

New federal rules, which kicked in Saturday, prohibit ships and boats from discharging sewage within three nautical miles of shore, meaning raw sewage from holding tanks cannot be discharged anywhere in Saanich Inlet.

But, with only two pump-out stations on the Inlet - where there is minimal tidal cleansing - little publicity about the new regulations and almost no information about how they will be enforced, it is a good bet that holding tanks are still being emptied into the waters, said Frances Pugh and Sarah Verstegen of the Saanich Inlet Protection Society.

Help for those anxious to abide by the new regulations is available in the form of Pumpty Dumpty, a 20-foot aluminum boat, with most of the space taken up by a 900-litre holding tank. The pump-out boat has been operated on a shoestring by volunteers from the Protection Society for the last decade and they are hoping that, with their assistance, the new rules will help clean up the much-used inlet.

"When there's a law and people actually know about it, 80 per cent of them will comply. It's not a stupid law, it's about having clean water," Pugh said.

"If you want to go swimming, you are swimming in exactly what you put in here," she said, peering over the side into the slightly murky waters.

Verstegen, who skippers Pumpty Dumpty, has tried with limited success to find out how people will be informed about the rule changes and how the law will be enforced.

"A lot of these boats don't even have holding tanks or a treatment system. The trouble is, who is going to check?" Verstegen said. "It falls under Transport Canada and they say any police officer can do it, but has anyone trained them?"

Transport Canada spokesman Rod Nelson said the department will make small vessel operators aware of the new regulations and how to comply with them. "Our approach to enforcement will be guided by results of monitoring initial compliance with the new regulations and from feedback received from stakeholders, both within the recreational boating community and the public."

Pumpty Dumpty volunteers hope many more boaters will use their service, which is available by donation.

Contents of holding tanks are pumped into Pumpty Dumpty's tank and then discharged into the Central Saanich sewage system, which has secondary treatment.

In 2010, 171 boats were serviced, which is a fraction of the number of boats using Saanich Inlet, including some live-aboards. Last year, it was 84 because Pumpty's motor died and, even though Pumpty receives free moorage at Anglers Anchorage Marina, the cash-strapped organization could not replace it immediately. "It's a very hand-to-mouth operation," Pugh said.

The difficulties helped spark a $25,000 donation from Butchart Gardens and a donation from Capital City Yacht Club.

"It's a dirty business, but someone has to do it," Pugh said.

The trick now is persuading boaters to change their ways, with or without the help of federal enforcement. "I am happy to do what I can to get people to change their habits, but when the federal government is behind it, I think they should help," Verstegen said.


TOXICS FROM EVERYDAY LIFE REACHING COLUMBIA RIVER (and going through a sewage treatment plant on their way there)

A federal study released Tuesday found more than 100 toxic substances from everyday life are making their way through wastewater treatment plants into the Columbia River.

Seattle Times
8 May 2012

A federal study released Tuesday found more than 100 toxic substances from everyday life are making their way through wastewater treatment plants into the Columbia River.

"In the past people thought of pollution in the river in terms of smokestack industry on the river or dirty pipes," said Jennifer Morace, the U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist who was lead investigator on the study.

"This links it back to what we do in our everyday lives, what goes down the drain and to the wastewater treatment plant, and the fact they were not designed to remove the new or emerging contaminants."

The study looked at water treatment plant discharges in nine cities, from Wenatchee, Wash., downstream to Longview, Wash. They included Umatilla, The Dalles, Hood River, Portland, Vancouver, Wash.; and St. Helens.

A total of 112 toxic materials were found, 53 percent of those that were tested for, including flame retardants, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, personal care products, mercury and cleaning products.

All nine sites showed the compound diphenhydramine, a component of Benedryl and Tylenol PM that makes people drowsy, and carbamazepine, a compound found in mood stabilizers, Morace said.

"Science is having a hard time keeping up with all the new compounds being constantly introduced," she said.

While science and government have not yet developed toxicity standards for the materials, "It is not hard to imagine they may have some sort of impact on aquatic life as well as people," Morace said.

Mary Lou Soscia, Columbia River coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the agency was particularly concerned about the harm the toxins could cause tribal people who eat a lot of fish from the river. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson met last week with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

"These are things that are out there that we all use in our lives that are not really easy to regulate or control," she said.

While flame retardants that mimic hormones in animals have been banned by the states of Washington and Oregon, they are still making their way into the river. So are pharmaceuticals, despite a nationwide drive for people to turn them in to collection centers rather than dump them down the drain.

The study was prompted by concerns raised by tribal and conservation groups, Morace said.

"Now that we understand how toxics have made their way into our river system, we must take immediate action to address the sources of contamination and begin cleanup," Paul Lumley, executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, said in a statement.

"We're not talking about a theoretical problem," Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper, said in a statement. "The departments of health in Oregon and Washington have fish advisories all over the Columbia River and other rivers that tell people to limit how much fish they eat because of toxic pollution."


ARESST: Below, story of a new sewage treatment plant for Victoria, Texas, treating 16,655, 811 litres (4.4 million gallons) on a 
32 hectare (78 acre) site. Compare that to Victoria BC plans to treat 122,000,000 litres on only a 5 hectare site. 


Melissa Crowe
Victoria Advocate (Texas)
May 5, 2012 

Bordered by open pastures, railroad lines and single-lane roads, some residents nestled in South Victoria might soon have a new, albeit unwanted, neighbor.

These residents, organized as The Concerned Citizens for the Health and Safety of Victoria, stepped up to protect their community against the dark side of modern living - sewage treatment.

The issue concerns the city's plan to build a $20 million, 4.4 million gallon sewage treatment plant on 78 acres between southwest Ben Jordan and Odem streets.

"Once they put that plant there, it'll stay for 50 or 100 years," said Henry Perez, a leader of the opposition group.

Battle lines drawn

Their plan is to stop the city from receiving a permit to build at that site.

But, the city is pushing back, saying the location is the most efficient and has the smallest impact.

The city and the citizens group are involved in a series of court hearings to determine the fate of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality permit to build the plant.

In January, an administrative judge will decide the outcome. If approved, construction could begin in 18 months.

Perez said his efforts are for the sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament of Victoria, located less than a mile north of the proposed site, but already about a mile east of the 50-year-old plant at 1509 S. Willow St., which would be closed.

Sister Patrice Schorp recalled the three years the city dumped its sewage sludge in the dump outside their shared fence.

"We were unable to eat outside or open our windows," she said. "We could never celebrate outside."

Speaking with carefully chosen words, she said although it stopped, the sisters will not "put up with it again."

The convent would be in direct line with the southeast winds of the proposed plant and could continue to be subjected for years with sewage odor, she said.

"Nobody is against the building of the plant, but it's the place in which it is put," Schorp said. "They should find a place farther away. Nobody should be exposed to that odor ever again."

The issue in Victoria was set off in early 2005 when the city's plant operated at 75 percent capacity for three months, triggering a rule that requires cities to begin planning for expansion.

The city hired Austin-based engineers Camper, Dresser and McKee to perform a study. From that, they calculated that the city needed to add capacity of 1.9 million gallons per day to meet the projected population growth.

Expanding that location was not an option, and because the regional plant is within a limited flood-protected area, its expansion is not an option either, said Victoria Public Works Director Lynn Short.

If the city expanded it, "it would be the absolute final expansion down there," he said. "Then you'd be back at this location."

In thinking long term, the city decided to build a 4.4 million gallon plant and close the 50-year-old plant at Willow Street, rated for 2.5 million gallons per day, he said.

In November 2010, the city started pursing a permit to build a plant. Engineers investigated nine locations across the city, looking at proximity to the Guadalupe River and the floodplain, room to expand, population density, proximity to the $500 per foot wastewater collection mains on Bottom Road and the regional wastewater plant on U.S. Highway 59.

Eventually, officials settled on the site off southwest Ben Jordan Street.

"The problem with most of those sites was they were in a floodplain, or not close enough to the large diameter sewer mains or the regional plant site," Short said. As a result, construction at any other site could cost millions more to build.

Election issue

The issue has become a controversial topic for the May 12 city council election.

Arguments hit on transparency in planning, fiscal responsibility and closing Willow Street's plant.

The proposal affects council District 1, represented by Councilwoman Denise Rangel.

Rangel stood her ground and has defended her votes supporting the plan.

"The decision came down to being able to close a 50-plus-year-old plant," she said. "We have new technology, we have the ability to make a better treatment plant."

She said she wants the proposal to include provisions to reduce its impact through landscaping, air filters and odor control.

She also noted the buffer zone is double Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's 150-foot standard.

Her opponent, Emett Alvarez, wants the city and residents to work out a settlement.

"Relocate the plant where it's isolated and there is no human habitat within one or two miles," Alvarez said.

He argued that the site is not the best because it could affect senior citizens, the convent, the Victoria Boys & Girls Club and an elementary school.

"Let's revisit the hard questions and see the data and analyses," he said. "I wasn't satisfied three years ago, and I'm still not."

Improved technology

Meanwhile, Short has assured residents that technological improvements to wastewater treatment are "neighbor friendly."

"The Willow Street plant is very, very old technology," Short said.

As of May, the new plant is not designed, but the technology is outlined.

The headworks, the area where raw sewage comes into the plant, would be covered to minimize odor and the air would be cleaned before being released. Neither of that happens at the Willow Street Plant.

The process of treating wastewater will be different, too, Short said.

Despite some upgrades in 1997 to Willow Street's plant, it is still considered by many to be "a dinosaur."

Curtis Davis, the plant's chief operator, said it "smells like money."

Standing at the top the primary clarifier, stage 2 of the plant, he identified the processes.

"This still has quite a bit of solids in the water," Davis said.

It settles to the bottom, and the water flows to a trickling filter - a 14-foot-deep bed of rock, teeming with waste-eating bacteria.

Davis described the process as "feeding the plant."

"It's archaic," Davis said. "You don't see too many of these around, but it was the top of the line in the 1950s."

That plant also uses a mechanical process that whips the water around, introducing air to support microorganism life.

The new plant would use a milder process - fine bubble aeration which provides oxygen without the turbulence, Short said.

Sludge would be piped to and processed at the regional plant, then made into mulch.

Heart of Sugar Land

The system would be similar to a 1973 wastewater plant on nine acres in the heart of Sugar Land.

When that plant was built, the area was sparsely populated. Eventually, the highway grew, and a shopping mall, hospital and subdivision moved in, surrounding the plant from all sides.

In 1994, the plant installed a "bio scrubber," its first air-cleaning technology. The scrubber is a pile of woodchips covered in microorganisms that eat the offensive gas from the oxygen.

Ken Gutowsky, contract operator and maintenance project manager at the North Wastewater Treatment Plant in Sugar Land, is realistic about expectations.

"You'll always have an odor," he said.

The stench occurs as waste decomposes in the line, and releases gas.

"It's not offensive, it's an earthy, musty smell," he said. "It's like fresh-tilled ground."

'It's not a big deal'

Living within 2,000 feet of the proposed site, Richard Peña, 48, has a lax attitude toward the issue.

Laced with bathroom humor, his view is simple: It's not a big deal.

Pointing to his stomach, he asked: Where do people think sewage comes from?

"The technology is different, the chemicals are different," he said. "If they do it right, it's not going to smell."

Peña, who grew up in Kingsville near a sewage treatment facility, said he is certain the plant will not bother him or his family.

"People are scared, but what are they scared about? Just the smell," he said. "It's going to get built either way," he said.