May 30, 2012






Too many questions remain in CRD's land-based proposals
Shaun Peck
Times Colonist
May 27, 2012
Letters to editor:

There has been little in the news lately about the Capital Regional District's proposed plan to build a land-based sewage treatment system.

The CRD has had difficulty getting commitments from senior governments for their one-third shares of the capital funding for the project. This delay is likely due to the current fiscal problems of both the provincial and federal governments and perhaps even to doubts about the uncertain cost-benefits of the proposed expenditure. With the delays in the funding approvals it is time to rethink the project.

Although the CRD has a plan approved by the B.C. minister of environment, the plan has many uncertainties. The plan submitted proposes a treatment plant at McLoughlin Point with a new marine outfall at the entrance to Victoria Harbour and a sludge treatment plant at the Hartland Landfill with a 15-kilometre double pipe joining the two. The preliminary cost estimate for this is now $791 million in capital costs with annual operating costs of $14.5 million.

The capital costs (apart from land costs) are expected to be cost shared a third each with the federal and provincial governments. This truly is a megaproject (costing about 10 times that of Victoria's Blue Bridge replacement), and like most megaprojects, it can be expected to incur significant cost overruns.

In November 2010, the CRD submitted a business case to the province for funding approval. This approval has not yet been obtained 18 months later.

It is time to reconsider the whole project. Even with the current approved plan, there are many uncertainties.

- Will the CRD acquire land at Macaulay Point from the Department of National Defence rather than build a plant at the entrance to Victoria Harbour? This would negate the need to build a new deep-sea outfall at McLoughlin Point.

- Will the CRD obtain land in the upper harbour for a sludge-treatment plant, rather than pipe the sludge 15 kilometres to the Hartland landfill?

- How will the CRD process the sludge? Is it really going to be transported to the Lower Mainland for burning in a lime kiln after using a vast amount of energy to dry the sludge?

- The proposed budget needs to be revisited because some revenue (such as from selling natural gas) will be less, and the idea of selling the dried sludge to lime kilns is hypothetical at best. In fact, it will probably cost the CRD to dispose of the sludge in this manner.

If the overall marine, land and air environment are considered, it is clear that the current plan for building land-based sewage treatment plants will have harmful effects.

The entire project needs to be rethought. I propose a new liquid-waste management plan.

The first step should be to evaluate the benefit of using finer screens that would enable the CRD to continue meeting the proposed federal regulatory measures for biochemical oxygen demand and total suspended solids. One such technology is the Norwegian-designed Salsnes filter. It is an alternative to a primary settling stage for a chemical/biological treatment facility and is being used worldwide. It would likely use less land and will save considerable cost.

A new plan would place more emphasis on preventing the contamination of storm-water drains that discharge directly onto Greater Victoria beaches, contaminating the environment and creating a potential public-health risk.

The current sewer source control program is being continually improved, but there seems to be no definite strategy for preventing the beaches being contaminated from the storm drains. More emphasis should be placed on preventing inflow and infiltration to the sewers, and preventing cross-connections from the sanitary sewer pipes to the rainwater drains, again creating a potential public health risk.

A new plan would also include a strategy to recover heat from sewage.

A new plan would develop the right solution for Victoria's sewage from ecological and sustainability perspectives. The plan would create the best solution that protects the marine, land, air and global environments. It would establish where energy can be recovered most efficiently. It would find the most cost-effective solution for municipal, provincial and federal taxpayers.

There is still plenty of time to rethink the current sewage-treatment project plans. There is a real opportunity to engage the regulators in a review of Victoria's unique marine receiving environment and its ability to assimilate the sewage naturally after appropriate filtering and screening. After all, don't we want to protect the environment in the most natural and positive way?

- Shaun Peck was the medical health officer for the CRD from 1989 to 1995.



Saanich News
May 29, 2012 
Send a letter by clicking on link: Victoria NewsSaanich NewsOak Bay NewsGoldstream Gazette

It remains a mystery to many taxpayers how our politicians can ignore the opinions of marine scientists, health officers and engineers, who have publicly challenged the need for sewage treatment of our south shore effluent, and continue to spend millions of tax dollars on a project that has no justification whatsoever.

These leaders/lemmings have repeatedly (and sometimes deliberately) misrepresented the findings and recommendations of the two studies that led to the decision to treat our south shore effluent (which is 99.97 per cent water) and they have refused to conduct any study of the benefits that this massive waste of public funds will allegedly provide.

If this project will actually improve the environmental, social, and/or economic aspects of the offshore outfall system we have been using for decades, then let’s hear about it. The truth is that no such study has been done, and for good reason – there are no such benefits. Our current system is extremely efficient and almost perfect.

Take a good look in the mirror to see who’s actually going to pay for this gigantic white elephant, then demand an explanation. You and your neighbours won’t enjoy the permanent tax increase that’s coming.

Bob Wheaton


Victoria News
May 29, 2012 
Send a letter by clicking on link: Victoria NewsSaanich NewsOak Bay NewsGoldstream Gazette

Re: Show CRD the money (Our View, May 18)

The construction of land-based sewage treatment plants for Victoria will go down as one of the greatest environmental mistakes ever made.

After the order for the construction was given, 91 scientists, medical health officers and others wrote the minister of environment, saying that he did not have the evidence to justify it.

Not a single scientist or medical health officer involved in a generation of monitoring believes it is needed. There are no exceptions to that.

The order was based on a sentence in a report by others that was not taken from its conclusions. Indeed, that report does not recommend treatment and states “the benefits of treatment cannot be described with any precision,” but then they are not described at all.

The environmental health and safety costs of building and operating the plants – which can be estimated with precision – are ignored.

At about a billion dollars, including plant maintenance, it outmatches the Gomery affair by a wide margin.

Ted Dew-Jones


Ted Dew-Jones
Times Colonist
May 30, 2012
Letters to editor:

Construction of land-based sewage treatment plants for Victoria would go down as a huge environmental mistake.

After the order for the construction was given, 91 scientists, medical health officers and others wrote the minister that he did not have the evidence to justify it. Not a single scientist or medical health officer involved in a generation of monitoring believes it is needed. There are no exceptions to that.

The order was based on a sentence in a report by others that was not taken from its conclusions. Indeed, that report does not recommend treatment and states "the benefits of treatment cannot be described with any precision," but then they are not described at all. The environmental health and safety costs of building and operating the plants (which can be estimated with precision) have been ignored. The building of the plants could not be reversed.

At around $1 billion, allowing for operation in perpetuity, it would outmatch the Gomery affair by a wide margin.

Ted Dew-Jones


MAY 29, 2012

The federal government is sabotaging its own legislated requirement to protect endangered freshwater fish by weakening the Fisheries Act, four former federal fisheries ministers from B.C. and Canadian scientists say in separate letters to the Harper government.

The four former ministers - Conservatives Tom Siddon and John Fraser and Liberals David Anderson and Herb Dhaliwal - wrote in their letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper that they are concerned about the erosion of Ottawa's statutory responsibility to protect fish habitat.

"Migratory salmon and steelhead are icons of our home province," the former ministers from B.C. stated. "Our experience persuades us that their continued survival would be endangered without adequate federal regulation and enforcement, particularly in the area of habitat protection."

Proposed changes to the Fisheries Act in Bill C-38 "will inevitably reduce and weaken the habitat protection provisions," and the Conservative government has provided "no plausible, let alone a convincing, rationale for proceeding with the unusual process that has been adopted," they said.

The former ministers said the proposed changes amount to "using a sledgehammer to swat a fly" and reminded the Harper government that the fisheries are essential to coastal com-munities, especially those with many first nations people.

Their broadside against the Harper government came as the 1,000-member Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution (CSEE) warned Ottawa in a different letter - to be sent today - that the proposed revisions mean the majority of freshwater fish and up to 80 per cent of the 71 freshwater species at risk of extinction would lose protection.

That letter is signed by Dalhousie University professor Jeffrey Hutchings, a current member and former chairman of the federal government's main independent advisory body on species at risk, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The letter also denounces the closure of a world-renowned experimental lakes area (ELA) in northwest-ern Ontario, a research facility and area that includes 58 small lakes and their watersheds.

The decision was described in the latest edition of the British magazine Nature as the equivalent of the U.S. shuttering the Los Alamos nuclear physics site.

University of Alberta fresh-water researcher David Schindler, who founded ELA in the late 1960s and ran it until 1989, said in an interview that research at the site has led to the removal of phosphorus from detergents and sewage. Work at the site was also critical in the development of tough acid rain rules.

"The financial implications of this alone are worth billions of dollars."

CSEE member Nick Dulvy, a Simon Fraser University professor who formerly worked as a fisheries scientist in the British government, said the moves add to his growing alarm about the Harper government's "misuse" of science.

"In my time working in the U.K. government, I never saw any sign that any of the behaviour, practice or actions of the Canadian government would be even remotely tolerated," Dulvy - who was recruited by SFU to be Canada Research Chair in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation - said in an email interview.

The proposed changes to the Fisheries Act are in Bill C-38, the omnibus budget implementation bill now being studied by two House of Commons committees. The legislation would eliminate one of the most powerful environmental components of federal law - the ban on any activity that results in "harmful" alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat.

It is being replaced by a prohibition against activity that results in "serious harm" to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or aboriginal fishery, or any fish that supports one of those three fisheries.

"Serious harm" is defined as the "death of fish" or any "permanent" alteration to, or "destruction" of, fish habitat.

"This revision will remove habitat protection for most of Canada's freshwater fish," Hutchings wrote on behalf of the 1,000 scientists.



Ocean's Day Celebration 12-3:30pm Sunday June 3, 2012

World Fisheries Trust, a local NGO that delivers environmental education
and conservation programs both locally and internationally, is working in
collaboration with Esquimalt Parks and Recreation to join hundreds of
other educators, conservation organizations, stewardship groups and
thousands of individuals around the world to celebrate our shared ocean.

We will be hosting an Oceans Day celebration from 12:00pm to 3:30pm on
Sunday June 3rd, 2012 at the Gorge Waterway Nature House in Esquimalt
Gorge Park.

This year's Oceans Day theme is "Youth - the Next Wave for Change", and we
are promoting and coordinating activities worldwide with a focus on
getting youth involved in conserving the world's oceans. As such, our
Oceans Day Festival will include activities such as live music, crafts,
food, face painting, canoe tours of the Gorge, touch tanks with local
marine life, interpretive walks, and educational and interactive displays
and models among other activities.

Admission is free, though donations are gladly accepted to support the
Gorge Waterway Nature House.



Joseph Gollner
Times Colonist
May 30, 2012
Letters to editor:

How would the residents of Greater Victoria react if the Environment Ministry announced that it is actively considering a proposal to dump five million tonnes of contaminated soil into Greater Victoria's protected Sooke Lake watershed?

Fortunately for Victoria, the Sooke Lake watershed is not the site of the proposal. The Shawnigan Lake watershed is the proposed site to receive this huge amount of contaminated soil. Understandably, residents are seriously concerned for the safety of their drinking water.

The dumping of contaminated soil from the Capital Regional District into the neighbouring Cowichan Valley Regional District is standard practice. The Environment Ministry controls every aspect of contaminated soil handling. However, the system is self-governing, with the ministry relying on the goodwill of corporate citizens to comply with its array of contaminated soil regulations. Actual enforcement of its regulations on contaminated soil is, at best, limited.

The CVRD's complaints on this unseemly practice have been unheard. It passed a bylaw prohibiting the practice of dumping contaminated soil in its district. The bylaw was not approved by the provincial government. The dumping continues unabated with its scope and activity rate growing. Now this latest huge proposal has surfaced.

Why the Environment Ministry continues to support dumping of contaminated soil in the Cowichan Valley is unfathomable. Could it be that there are more potential votes and vested interests in Greater Victoria than in the rural Cowichan Valley, thus dumping contaminated soil in the Cowichan Valley is politically expedient?

Joseph Gollner
Shawnigan Lake



Times Colonist
May 30, 2012
Letters to editor:

Victoria city council has declined to prohibit smoking in Centennial Square. The issue came to a vote because Coun. Shellie Gudgeon pushed for a six-month trial. She argued a ban would show leadership in public health.

But other members of council disagreed. Lisa Helps noted that "people who spend a lot of time in Centennial Square - have no other places to go in some cases, and they're sitting there with their backpack and their dog and they're having a cigarette and that is a pleasure."

In this instance, council's decision feels right, but what stands out is the way it was reached. Neither side presented health-related evidence for or against a ban.

No doubt that's because there is no compelling case either way. The injurious effect of second-hand smoke in confined spaces, like restaurants, is well established.

But in open-air environments, the situation is much less clear. On balance, the risk - if it exists - is small.

However, none of that seems to have mattered. The decision came down, in the end, to gut-level instincts. Is that how we want such important issues resolved?

Let's broaden the discussion slightly. Two weeks ago, Richmond city council banned genetically modified crops.

The ruling is more than a philosophical gesture. The municipality's boundaries encompass a large rural area. Farmers in the region are now prohibited from planting genetically engineered crops.

Here again, a rather sweeping decision appears to have been taken before the science is actually settled. The issue is certainly contentious, and there is ferocious lobbying on both sides of the argument.

Yet there is no confirmed evidence that GM crops pose a danger. The European Union recently struck down a French ban on insect-resistant maize, citing research that showed no observable harm to health or the environment.

In both of these decisions, a trend can be seen. The battle over regulations that affect public health and personal choice is rapidly moving from federal and provincial ministries to local government.

Last year the Capital Regional District outlawed the use of tanning salons by anyone under 18. That decision does have some medical grounding. Young people who absorb excess amounts of ultraviolet radiation are slightly more likely to develop skin cancer.

Now the ban is being adopted provincewide. Local decisions quickly spread.

And last week, the City of Port Moody prohibited the sale of shark fins. That decision also has scientific support. A number of shark species are endangered, in part because of the trade in shark fins.

The concern lies in the way these policies came about. By design, local governments are kept close to their electorate. When a sewer backs up or a water main ruptures, we need someone to deal with the problem quickly. The slow, deliberative process of a federal or provincial ministry is no use in an emergency.

But the same features that make municipalities responsive - small size, limited numbers of electors - also make them susceptible to pressure. A handful of agitators can sway even a good-sized council or swamp its planning department.

And little harm in that, if the issues at stake are minor. But when they involve decisions that constrain important liberties, there does seem to be reason for concern.

There are 154 municipalities and 28 regional districts in our province. If each council approved just one new choice-limiting regulation a year, the cumulative effect would be dramatic.

This is not an approach to be encouraged. Before decisions are made that encroach on personal freedoms, we need the broadest possible debate, backed up by scientific evidence and rigorous analysis.

None of these requirements are ensured at present. Before we go further down this road, a serious rethink is needed.