June 10, 2012

ARESST News Blog

CALWMC MEETS 13 JUNE (concern about energy centre business "sensitivities")



CALWMC MEETS 13 JUNE (concern about energy centre business "sensitivities")

June 13, 2012 Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee Agenda 

5. Private, Non-Profit and Educational Sector Information Updates (EHQ 12-39)
REPORT: Item 06 #EHQ 12-39 Private, Non-Profit and Educational Sector Information Updates (sensitivities and sensitivity) :

6. New Business

7. Motion to close the meeting in accordance with the Community Charter, Part 4, Division 3, Section 90(1) (e) the acquisition, disposition or expropriation of land or improvements.

8. Adjournment

ARESST: Great to have ARESST Board member Karen James' letter published today by Times Colonist, but decision by TC editor to include large photo featuring Outfall sign (attached) will be confusing to some readers who might think that the outfall actually discharges at that point, rather than more than kilometre out and 50 metres down in the Strait. 

Karen James
Times Colonist
June 05, 2012

Re: "Science should guide decisions," May 30.

The editorial emphasized the importance that science should play in decisions around some local bylaws and policies. There is another obvious local issue to include in this conversation - Victoria's plan for land-based sewage treatment.

This issue comes with a price tag of $791 million in capital costs and $14.5 million in operating costs. Many see this as an environmentally driven issue, yet there is scant scientific justification for it. There is much misinformation or half-truths in support of it. Capital Regional District monitoring reports of the current marine-based treatment system provide scientific data that confirms minimal impact of our sewage effluent on the ocean. Peer-reviewed literature from accredited marine scientists also supports the environmental viability of marine-based sewage treatment for the conditions present at Victoria.

The editorial claims "the battleground over regulations that affect public health and personal choice is rapidly moving from federal and provincial ministries to local government." That is simply not the case with Victoria's sewage treatment.

Do any of the locally elected officials understand the natural ways our liquid waste interacts with the ocean, and the tiny ecological footprint marine-based treatment will continue to have on our land and air environments? Let's listen to our marine scientists and defend our marine-based advantage.

Karen James


ARESST: Not mentioned below has been the continuing outpouring of contaminated storm water into Rock Bay, which I don't think has been address yet. In a later news-story, information that First Nations have expressed interest in buying part of the Rock Bay area.


Four more years: Crews to drain site, then remove tainted soil
Rob Shaw
Times Colonist
June 08, 2012

A toxic stew of pollution in Victoria's Rock Bay harbour will be dammed, drained and dug up in the latest stage of a multimillion cleanup project that is set to carry on for at least another four years.

Transport Canada announced plans Thursday to build a 15-metre tall temporary coffer dam in the bay, which is located at the north end of Store Street in an old industrial district of the downtown core.

Crews will pump out two million litres of sea water before hauling away 400 truckloads of contaminated soil, which represents a legacy of pollution from an old coal gasification plant that dumped tar and chemicals into the bay for almost 100 years.

If all goes well, that portion of the remediation, known as stage three, should be done by the end of 2016, Transport Canada said.

But little has gone according to plan, or budget, in the Rock Bay cleanup saga.

Transport Canada and B.C. Hydro announced in 2004 a joint remediation project at the site. The federal government is responsible for the harbour, and Hydro inherited the land.

Together, they've removed 200,000 tonnes of dirty soil.

The initial budget was set at roughly $32 million. Eight years later, that amount has ballooned to more than $68 million, not including Transport Canada's share of the latest dredging and digging, which it says it has yet to calculate.

Leftover waste from the old power plant has made Rock Bay one of the most complicated environmental cleanup projects in B.C.

Transport Canada and Hydro say that the extent of the contamination is far worse than expected.

Hydro said its share of the latest stage of cleanup is $18.8 million. It has already spent $30 million.

The Crown corporation has paid for some of the work over the years out of its operating budget, but said it will seek to recover $22.3 million through electricity rate hikes for consumers in 2015 at the earliest, said Hydro spokesman Ted Olynyk.

"This agreement has no immediate impact on rates," he said.

Meanwhile, the co-operation on the project between Transport Canada and B.C.

Hydro appears to be strained. The federal government sued Hydro over cost-sharing at Rock Bay, and Hydro's share of the dam and drain project is part of a negotiated settlement, Hydro said.

"The two parties disagreed on the form of remediation going forward for stage three," Olynyk said.

"We believed there were more cost-effective practices available."

Hydro still has another five years' worth of other cleanup work on buildings and land around Rock Bay, said Olynyk. It will knock down one of three derelict buildings on the site. Then it plans to sell the land.

The City of Victoria has expressed interest in the site as a future location for a high-tech park, but only when and if the cleanup is finished.



JUNE 5, 2012

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. - Winston Churchill

Canadians should worry about Bill C-38 - Ottawa's bid to gut the
Environmental Assessment Act.

Let's not forget that there is a compelling reason for environmental assessments of industrial projects. In the days before environmental assessment laws, much unnecessary damage was done to the environment, to people, to the economy, and to taxpayers. For example:

. Mines destroyed fisheries in many Canadian rivers, including B.C.'s Tsolum River.

. Pulp mill pollution closed shellfish harvesting along hundreds of kilometres of B.C. coastline.

. An Ontario industrial plant poisoned the Grassy Narrows and Whitedog first nations with mercury - a legacy that ravaged their nervous systems for decades.

. In Canada's north, the Faro and Giant mines poisoned the environment - and cost taxpayers over $800 million to clean up.

. A number of Canadian lead smelters contaminated local children, likely affecting brain function.

. The steel plant in Sydney, N.S., transformed an estuary into a hazardous waste site. The cleanup cost taxpayers $400 million.

. At one time Lake Erie was declared virtually dead - and its U.S. tributary, the Cuyahoga River, caught fire.

When rivers began catching fire, even conservatives such as Richard Nixon were convinced. President Nixon signed a law requiring environmental assessments in 1969. Canada followed suit in 1992. The vast majority of developed countries now require environmental assessments of industrial projects.

Assessments are almost universally required because they are necessary to ensure that industry:

. Avoids - or reduces - environmental harm, where possible;

. Uses resources efficiently and maintains the environment for other businesses (e.g., tourism, fisheries);

. Pays for the harm it does, instead of sticking taxpayers with the tab.

The current federal environmental assessment regime has largely worked. While it approves the vast majority of projects, it often improves them and reduces environmental impacts. And, very occasionally, it rejects particularly harmful projects. For example, it nixed Taseko Mine's proposal to drain B.C.'s Fish Lake, a premier fishing lake home to 85,000 rainbow trout.

However, Ottawa seems to have forgotten why it is smart to assess project impacts ahead of time - why we should look before we leap. Instead, government ministers vigorously decry assessment "red tape."

This government rhetoric against "red tape" is eerily familiar. It echoes the rhetoric of U.S. Republicans who acted to weaken environmental assessment in that country. Canadians should take note. This U.S. approach did not turn out well.

Consider the catastrophic 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Because the U.S. law had been weakened, British Petroleum was no longer required to do a "worst case analysis" of deep-water drilling. And the weakened U.S. law exempted BP from having to carry out an environmental impact analysis of its drilling. Yet this missing environmental assessment could have prevented the catastrophe. Of course, after the BP spill, the U.S. government acknowledged the problem and toughened up their assessment requirements again. But that was too late - 11 workers were already dead, and five million barrels of oil had surged into the gulf.

Clearly, loosening environmental rules can impose a heavy cost. And Bill C-38 dramatically loosens the rules. The bill would:

. Reduce the number and scope of assessments required;

. Narrow the kinds of environmental effects to be assessed;

. Disenfranchise lay people without a "direct interest" from participating in assessments - silencing Vancouverites' submissions about remote projects like Northern Gateway;

. Authorize Ottawa to abdicate, and leave many assessments to the
provinces. This is worrisome. The B.C. Assessment office approved the idea of draining Fish Lake - and virtually never recommends that a project be rejected.

This is no way to protect the national interest. Canadians - like the people of the Gulf Coast - may rue the day.

- Calvin Sandborn is legal director of the University of Victoria
Environmental Law Clinic (http://www.elc.uvic.ca/).



James Laughlin
Vol 28, Issue 6

Philadelphia and Chicago both embarked recently on independent programs to test the effectiveness of using the large volume of wastewater at their treatment plants as a heat source in combination with heat pumps to boost performance of heating and cooling systems.

The Philadelphia Water Department and Philadelphia-based NovaThermal Energy have partnered to be the first site in the United States to deploy a commercial scale geothermal system that provides building heat using domestic wastewater. In mid-April Novathermal Energy partners, City and U.S. Department of Energy officials held a ribbon-cutting and tour at the Southeast Water Pollution Control Plant where the project has been implemented.

In early May, a ribbon cutting was held to launch a similar project at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago's James C. Kirie Water Reclamation Plant. That project is a partnership with the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and supported by an $87,500 grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation.

The Philadelphia project consists of a 1 million BTU/hr unit located in a basement at the plant. Heat is directly accessed from the adjacent sewage channel. While the technology can be scaled to a much larger size, this project serves to prove the technology's energy savings.

NovaThermal hopes to demonstrate its ability to provide heat at approximately 50% of current cost, realizing $216,000 of savings over 15 years. The company plans to market its patented Chinese technology to any large building located near a major sewer trunk line that contains a steady flow of wastewater still warm from its previous use. In China, several large buildings have successfully employed the technology for heating and air conditioning, including a hotel and a 1-million-square-foot train station in Beijing and a 450,000-square-foot high-rise apartment building in Tianjin, China's third-largest city.

The Philadelphia project was made possible through funding provided by the City of Philadelphia's Greenworks Pilot Energy Technology Grant program, which is supported by federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funds from the U.S. Department of Energy. Ben Franklin Technology Partners of SE Pennsylvania contributed with a grant to support measurement and verification technical assistance.

Heat pump technology is well established. Ground source heat pumps are more efficient than air source systems because they draw heat from the ground or groundwater which is at a relatively constant temperature all year round. This means that the temperature differential is lower, leading to higher efficiency. The same effect is possible from wastewater.

At the Chicago's James C. Kirie Water Reclamation Plant, the effluent has an average temperature of 55 °F. The heat pump system will transfer heat from the effluent to heat the buildings in the winter, and in the summer the heat will be transferred into the water to provide building cooling.

The UIC team worked with the MWRD's Monitoring and Research department to develop a feasibility study for the Kirie WRP, including system design, equipment requirements, historical system data, space requirements and installation.

The Chicago project will compare open and closed loop systems, looking at both efficiency and maintenance requirements over the next year. The closed system circulates treated water in a closed system suspended in a long effluent channel that runs to a receiving stream for discharge. In the open system, treated wastewater is pumped from the effluent channel and then back after passing through the heat pump system.

Catherine O'Connor, Assistant Director in Monitoring and Research at MWRD, said researchers expect the open system to be more efficient and require less energy, but it might have higher maintenance needs.

"We anticipate there will be some algae growth with the open system and want to insure that isn't a problem. We want to understand how much maintenance that would be," she said.

A heat pump system can reduce energy consumption and corresponding emissions up to 44% compared to air-source heat pumps, and up to 72% compared to electric resistance heating with standard air-conditioning equipment, said Commissioner Frank Avila, chairman of MWRD's Board of Commissioners engineering committee during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"I am pleased to be here for the activation of an innovative new energy-saving heating and cooling system at this plant that we are calling ‘sewerthermal'," Avila said. "The data we collect could be used to design systems that can easily be applied at our other facilities."

The facility currently uses natural gas for heating and electricity for conventional air conditioning. The heat pump system will serve the 10,000 square foot administration building and is expected to reduce the building's heating and air conditioning costs by 50 percent, Avila said.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter also touted the energy savings possible using the technology.

"I am proud to say that Philadelphia is taking another groundbreaking step in becoming the greenest city in America," said Mayor Nutter. "Partnering with a Philadelphia-based company and using innovative technology, we have achieved a win-win for energy efficiency and economic development. We will be able to save on costs and energy resources at a city facility while commercializing a technology that can be used in large commercial and industrial buildings throughout the country."

O'Connor said heat pumps are a mature technology and this is simple innovation that could be adapted to any wastewater treatment plant that has relatively stable water temperatures. And, it's just one more example of the value that can be obtained from wastewater.

"We are beginning to refocus and understand that we are a resource recovery operation, not wastewater treatment and disposal," she said. "We believe we have a very rich biosolid that should be beneficially reused and we look forward to recovering phosphorus. Now we are recovering heat."



June 2012
Sara Reardon

Low levels of antidepressants and other psychoactive drugs in water
supplies can trigger the expression of genes associated with autism – in
fish at least.

The use of antidepressants has increased dramatically over the past 25
years, says Michael Thomas of Idaho State University in Pocatello. Around
80 per cent of each drug passes straight through the human body without
being broken down, and so they are present in waste water. In most
communities, water purification systems cannot filter out these
pharmaceuticals. "They just fly right through," says Thomas, which means
they ultimately find their way into the water supply.

The concentration of these drugs in drinking water is very low – at most,
they are present at levels several orders of magnitude lower than the
prescription doses. But since the drugs are specifically designed to act
on the nervous system, Thomas hypothesised that even a small dose could
affect a developing fetus.

Thomas's group created a cocktail of the anti-epileptic drug carbamazepine
and two selective serotonin uptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants,
fluoxetine and venlafaxine, at this low concentration. They exposed
fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) to the drugs for 18 days, then
analysed the genes that were being expressed in the fishes' brains.

Although the researchers had expected the drugs might activate genes
involved in all kinds of neurological disorders, only 324 genes associated
with autism in humans appeared to be significantly altered. Most of these
genes are involved in early brain development and wiring.

The finding fits with previous research which had found that pregnant
women who take SSRIs are slightly more likely to have autistic children.
(Archives of General Psychiatry, DOI: 10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.73).

To test whether these changes actually altered the fish's behaviour, the
researchers did an experiment in which they startled the fish. Fish
exposed to the drugs tended to panic and behave differently from a control
group of fish.

Thomas emphasises that the research is very preliminary – there's no need
for pregnant women to worry about their drinking water yet, he says. The
researchers next plan to study whether the drugs have a similar effect in
mammals. They are testing this by lacing the drinking water of pregnant
mice with the low-concentration cocktail. They are also studying water
supplies in areas around the country where there are particularly high
concentrations of drugs to determine whether the fish – and people – in
these areas have autism-like gene expression patterns.

Journal reference: PLoS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032917