July 18, 2012




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Multimillion-dollar project benefits construction industry, not taxpayers
David Anderson
Times Colonist
July 18, 2012
Letters to editor: letters@timescolonist.com

Had our Canadian governments wished to demonstrate how far this country has moved in the past months from evidence-based and science-based public policy, they could have picked few better examples than the announcement on Monday to proceed with the construction of a $780-million secondary treatment system for Victoria's wastewater.

While scientific decisions always involve some element of uncertainty, there is little scientific uncertainty here. Scientific study after study, decade after decade, has shown that current system of natural wastewater disposal, through long outfalls to the cold, fast-moving and highly oxygenated waters of Juan de Fuca Strait, is environmentally superior to the on-shore artificial treatment system that the Capital Regional District is proposing to put in place. Ten of the University of Victoria's scientists, in disciplines such as oceanography, marine biology and engineering, have taken the unusual step of pointing out in a public letter that that the proposed on-land artificial system will not, on balance, provide any appreciable environmental benefit. Six former and current regional health officers have also come out publically to point out that there are no health benefits to the proposed system.

These people have had the best of scientific training and the longest experience of research with the issues involved, yet their views were simply ignored.

How did we get into this lose-lose situation?

The answer is simple. Governments have been more interested in playing to the gallery of public opinion than taking on the harder task of explaining the facts to their constituents and critics.

For the federal government, the government that made Monday's announcement, this is another example in a series that shows its fundamental lack of respect for science, amply demonstrated in recent months by the reductions in staff of Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and by the gutting of the Fisheries Act and environmental assessment legislation through Bill C-38.

However the pattern of ignoring inconvenient scientific evidence extends to the first months of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government.

For example, a year after forming government, when forced by international ridicule to abandon his policy of denial, fire his environment minister and admit that climate change was a pressing issue, Harper put hundreds of millions into the eco-scams of grain-based ethanol production and carbon capture and sequestration, which incidentally still continue. This put taxpayers' money into farmers' and oil producers' pockets, but has done nothing appreciable to reduce the global threat of climate change. This time, with Monday's announcement, it will be the construction industry that stands to gain, while once again the environment will lose.

What of the provincial government's role? The provincial government's decision to mandate on-land artificial treatment was made by then-environment minister Barry Penner in the Gordon Campbell government. From public statements at the time, it appears that he did not know the differences between the receiving water situations of Victoria and Juan de Fuca Strait, or Vancouver and the Gulf of Georgia, or Seattle and Puget Sound. Nor did he appear aware that U.S. cities with similar opportunities for natural systems are routinely exempted from the provisions of U.S. legislation requiring secondary treatment, as Victoria would be were this city in the United States. The government of Christy Clark inherited this muddle, and, as with the Campbell government's mistake over rezoning of the Juan de Fuca lands, appears to be unable to admit it or correct it.

The Capital Regional District had the opportunity of challenging the provincial government on the issue, but instead, with a few honourable exceptions such as Saanich councillor Vic Derman and Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, the CRD chose to willingly go along, as long as the costs were split, and the blame for the tax increases to pay for the expenditures could be put on the shoulders of other levels of government.

Lost in all of this have been the interests of Greater Victoria citizens and taxpayers, who will get no appreciable improvement in quality of life or in health, but instead a heavy tax burden to pay for it all.

The other loser is the environment itself, which, for a thousand issues from global climate change to local storm water runoff, is in dire need of serious expenditures to reverse the degradation brought on by our consumer civilization.

Our community, and our environment both deserves better.

David Anderson of Oak Bay has represented Victoria both in the provincial legislature and in the House of Commons. He served as fisheries and oceans minister and as environment minister in the government of prime minister Jean Chrétien between 1997 and 2004.


Mike Day
Times Colonist
July 18, 2012
Letters to editor: letters@timescolonist.com

Re: "Sewage overruns to fall to taxpayers," July 17.

First, I have been surprised that none of the environmental organizations - the Suzukis, the Greens, etc. - have opposed this project. If government has $800 million to invest in the environment, then why didn't they try to get the money invested where it will actually improve the environment? The science is clear that the Victoria sewage project will not.

Second, opposing this unnecessary public expenditure on the environment would also give them some credibility, and would give fact-based decision making a boost in the public's eye. Currently, the environmental organizations are known only for opposing everything, regardless - no balance in their advocacy.

Mike Day



Re: “Sewage overruns to fall to taxpayers,” July 17.

Bob Thompson
Times Colonist
July 18, 2012
Letters to editor: letters@timescolonist.com
The last time I looked, Greater Victoria was part of a democracy, where the majority rules.

Apparently we’re not, because the Capital Regional District has just approved a sewage-treatment facility that will cost at least $1 billion to build, and $14 million a year to operate. And the CRD has done this against the advice of the majority of scientists who say it’s not necessary, that there are better and cheaper options, and against the majority of property owners whose taxes will increase by an estimated $100 to $500 per year.

Will someone please put this matter to a referendum? That’s what they do in a democracy. 

Bob Thompson 

(not in digital TC but published in Library Press Display and in newspaper)



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Treatment to produce heat, gas and solid fuel

Cindy E. Harnett
Times Colonist
July 18, 2012
Letters to editor: letters@timescolonist.com

Two pipes will cut a 21kilometre path through the capital region, helping to turn sewage into heat, gas and solid fuel.

One pipe will punch along three kilometres of waterfront paths and seabed to Esquimalt. A second pipe will stretch 18 kilometres under residential roads to Hartland landfill in Saanich where, if all goes according to plan, a plant will turn sludge into gas and solid fuel.

The transformation of sewage into energy will answer a public demand for social, economic and environmental benefits from Greater Victoria's proposed sewage treatment system, said Tony Brcic, project manager for core area wastewater treatment. "It's true, real and immediate resource recovery."

The Capital Regional District's effort to build a secondary sewage treatment system, at a budgeted cost of $782.7 million, shifted into high gear Monday with the announcement of funding from federal, provincial and local governments.

Plant locations, specific routes of pipes and treatment methods are still to be decided as the CRD continues to investigate best sites and practices.

Here's an overview of what has been suggested:

Today, sewage flows down the east and west sides of the capital region through trunk sewer systems.

The sewage comes from Victoria, Saanich, Langford, Colwood, Esquimalt, View Royal and Oak Bay, while Central and North Saanich, Sidney and Sooke treat or deal with their own sewage.

Eventually, the sewage shoots through screened one-metre diameter outfall pipes at Clover and Macaulay points. The two pipes will be redirected and sewage pumped to one new facility at McLoughlin Point.

The pipe from Clover Point is to run underground along Dallas Road until it gets to the Ogden Point wharves. From there, a pipe of about one metre in diameter will travel about 500 metres under Victoria's harbour to McLoughlin Point. The total length of the pipe from Clover Point is about three kilometres.

The pipe will be drilled under the sea floor in one direction using trenchless technology. "We don't want to disturb the seafloor," Brcic said.

Once the liquid from the sewage is treated, it will be shot out into the ocean through a new two-metre gravity outfall pipe at McLoughlin Point.

Heat could be recovered from the effluent at McLoughlin and carried a maximum of four kilometres through a loop to heat commercial developments.

Meanwhile, the separated sludge would be piped to a biosolids energy centre proposed for Hartland landfill, using three to four pumping stations en route. The sludge is "thinner than molasses" at two per cent solids, Brcic said.

The CRD costed out the shortest road route, using mostly boulevards, but no route has been chosen yet. It will be the most costeffective, cause the least disruption to traffic and asphalt, and avoid rock excavation, Brcic said.

At Hartland, the sludge will undergo anerobic digestion, where it is heated to 55° C in a closed vessel to kill bacteria and make the biosolids essentially pathogen-free. The result is biogas which can be used instead of fossil fuels.

"This is the biggest resource recovery in the project by far," Brcic said. "Seventy per cent of all treatment plants use biodigestion and the rest would love to have it."

The amount captured could heat 1,000 homes.

Water is removed from the biosolids and in that process phosphorous is recovered, which can be used as a fertilizer. The last step is to use the dried biosolids to replace coal.





Victoria News
July 18, 2012 

When the provincial and federal governments fork over $500 million, most cities would celebrate the economic benefits of a fresh influx of capital.

But after Monday’s announcement that Ottawa and the Province of B.C. will fund two-thirds of the $783-million cost of a regional sewage treatment system, it felt more like a day of reckoning.

The region’s sewer system users – Victoria, Oak Bay, Esquimalt, Saanich, View Royal, Colwood and Langford – now must figure out how to extract their share of cash from residents and councils, both of whom are loathe to increase property taxes.

Raising $281 million for the construction phase isn’t pocket change. That’s $200 to $500 per household each year until the McLoughlin Point wastewater treatment plant, a biosolids treatment plant and improvements to sewage infrastructure, are complete. Operating costs are estimated at $14 million per year after that.

For Victoria residents, it will be interesting to see what the final price tag is for the Blue Bridge. For regional rapid transit, the E&N line is suddenly looking a lot more attractive.

After six years and $18 million spent on sewage treatment planning and studies, the region knew this day would come, but decisions on how to divide costs among sewered municipalities, and how to raise those funds in the first place, have remained on the back burner.

As dismal as it is to start paying a fat new tax to wring clean the city’s effluent, a few positives can be flushed out, beyond not flushing waste directly into the ocean. The region has the opportunity to employ technologies that extract heat (and energy) from sewage, like many European cities have done for decades.

Maximizing resource recovery should be a requirement of the tendering process and not an add-on when the system is done. Recouping costs and easing the taxpayer burden should be priority No. 1. Sewage treatment, too, is an opportunity to examine aging sewer lines in Victoria, Oak Bay and Saanich, some of which have been in service for more than 100 years.

The region’s largest-ever infrastructure project has arrived. Start saving your pennies.



Joel Connelly
Seattle Post Intelligencer Blog
16 July 2012

Politicians said in Victoria, B.C. on Monday that they expect construction will  begin this year on plants that will — finally — treat the raw sewage that British Columbia’s touristy provincial capital  has long dumped into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The Canadian federal government, the province of B.C., and local municipalities will share equally in the $782 million (Canadian) cost of secondary treatment, politicians announced in a ceremony full of self-praise held at Victoria’s Inn at Laurel Point.

But political leaders from Victoria and neighboring municipalities delayed and defended dumping for more than two decades.

Only after an independent scientific panel, including American experts, threw cold water on official claims did the provincial government tell Victoria in 2006:  Get off the pot.

International outcry, and no small amount of humor and ridicule,  forced the issue.

“I’ve heard from people in the Middle East say they don’t hear much about Canada very often, but one of the things they routinely hear about is that our capital cities dump 40 billion litres of raw sewage into the ocean,” Barry Penner, the former environment minister who ordered the cleanup, told CBC News.

The issue was initially brought to international attention by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1991.  It was soon above-the-fold front page news in the New York Times.

American yachting enthusiasts infuriated stuffy nabobs at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club by organizing an alternative to the annual Swiftshure Yacht Race in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

A Victoria graduate student dressed up as a falsetto-voiced, six-foot-tall turd — “Mr. Floatie” — and tried to enter the Victoria-Hillsdale riding (district) candidates’ night during British Columbia’s 2005 election.  Mr. Floatie later sought to run for mayor of Victoria.

Canada’s then-federal environment minister, David Anderson, tried to stem the flow of controversy.  But he inadvertently added to it by depicting the Strait of Juan de Fuca as a giant toilet whose currents flushed away the sewage.

Anderson was irritated when, on the KCTS-TV’s “Seattle Week in Review,” journalists joked about how the cabinet’s Privy Council should take up sewage dumping, and that treatment should be announced in the government’s next Speech from the Throne.

Cities on the U.S. side of the Strait, which is an international waterway, were ordered by the Environmental Protection Agency to install secondary sewage treatment back in the 1970′s.

Naturally, years of delay and denial were forgotten on Monday.

“This is a quarter of a billion dollars to end dumping of sewage into waters around Victoria,” said James Moore, a member of Canada’s House of Commons from the governing Conservative Party.

Ida Chong, a provincial legislator, was quoted in the Victoria Times-Colonist as saying:    “I look forward to seeing shovels in the ground . . . This project is intended to bring the region’s infrastructure in line with environmental standards, help preserve our precious waterways and create vital jobs for B.C. families.”