July 25, 2012




David Anderson
Times Colonist
July 24, 2012
Letter to editor: letters@timescolonist.com

Federal Minister James Moore may have had the lead role and the headlines, and Capital Regional District members somewhat less coverage for their supporting roles in last Monday's announcement on cost sharing of the CRD's proposed secondary sewage treatment, but the government that gained the greatest ground was the one that got the least coverage of all, namely the B.C. provincial government.

The discomfort of Premier Christy Clark's government with former premier Gordon Campbell's decision to offer funding for the CRD treatment plan for Greater Victoria is well known. The Clark government is well aware that, given the unusual opportunity afforded by high volumes of fast-moving, highly oxygenated cold waters in the Juan de Fuca Strait, secondary on-land treatment does not provide any environmental or health benefit. They are also fully aware of the high financial costs, at a time of restraint in many other important areas of government funding.

Why did the Campbell government support secondary treatment?

A little history is needed here. In the years leading to the 2010 Winter Olympics, Campbell, fearful that the sewage issue might lead to a boycott of the Games by people in Seattle, declared himself "uncomfortable" with the lack of secondary treatment. At the time, he was almost certainly aware that the facts and the science did not support on-land secondary treatment, but his concern was the success of the Games and the optics of the current system. So, he went along with the misinformation that characterizes the Seattle media coverage of the issue, and the followup eventually resulted in a letter from his environment minister, Barry Penner, to the CRD, asking for secondary treatment or its equivalent.

The Olympics of course, were a great success and, in retrospect, it is clear that Campbell's concerns were groundless and his commitment to secondary treatment unnecessary. No boycott took place and there was no linkage of the event and the issue. In fact, a search of news coverage of the Games finds no reference to the issue at all.

However, the premier's words were on record, and the CRD, eager to move ahead, had launched the expensive process of attempting to plan on-land secondary treatment.

Shortly after the Olympics, Campbell resigned and Clark took over as premier. The capital region's sewage-treatment issue was yet another on the long list of muddles that Clark now had to deal with.

Oak Bay MLA Ida Chong was given the unhappy task of making no firm provincial commitment while at the same time not repudiating the Campbell/Penner decision. She was pulled both ways - on one hand by the CRD that wished for a firm commitment, and on the other by those, including many of Chong's constituents, who wished the Clark government to abandon the Campbell/Penner position, and return to a science-and facts-based policy. It was a no-win situation for Chong.

So, what did Chong do last week? She announced that the province would put up some $248 million - but only when the system was up and running, which means that only when the CRD has put up an equal amount, plus paid for all the cost overruns that are almost certain to occur. Of course, this is likely to take place at the earliest in 2018-19, assuming construction is on schedule. In fact, it will probably take longer.

That sounds like a firm commitment, even if the payment date is some way off. But it isn't any such thing. This announcement is one by the Clark government and does not bind any successor government. This is a firm principle of democratic constitutional law.

Unless a law is enacted, a contract is signed, or money is put in a dedicated account, one government cannot bind its successor to policy or expenditure.

So the next question is: how likely is it that nine or 10 years hence, Clark will still be premier? If history is any guide, by then we can expect as premier someone who is not now leading a provincial political party or even someone who is not now an MLA. Obviously, this commitment by Chong will not bind them. In fact, the commitment Chong made will end when the Clark government ends.

The next government will have a free hand to do what it wishes.

Chong deserves the "player of the game" award for her performance. She may not be a rugby player, but she sure knew how to punt the ball down the field and into the stands. The CRD, however, cannot be taking much comfort from the announcement. A provincial contribution to the capital costs of the onland secondary treatment is at best a decade away. A week can be a lifetime in politics. A decade is infinity. Who knows what the priorities of the government will be then?

David Anderson served as the member of Parliament for Victoria and as a member of prime minister Jean Chrétien's cabinet from 1993 to 2004.


Saanich News
July 24, 2012 

In 2007, the News had a discussion with a broad-based, highly placed group of scientists from the University of Victoria.

Focused only partly on the price tag of the Capital Regional District’s proposed sewage treatment system, they said the net benefit to the marine environment of pumping treated sewage into the ocean, rather than screened raw sewage, would be minimal.

Other more pressing problems, such as the loss of marine habitat due to development and the impact of non-native species – not to mention the effect of polluted stormwater – should take financial precedence, they said.

The UVic scientists arguments, and those of anti-treatment group ARREST and former medical health officer Dr. Shaun Peck remain as compelling now as five years ago.

While the CRD held open houses outlining a range of strategies for heeding the provincial mandate to treat the region’s sewage, there was virtually no public consultation around the actual decision to treat or not treat our effluent.

That is problematic. But with federal regulations stipulating wastewater treatment now in place, an extra set of regulatory eyes are watching how the CRD proceeds on this matter.

If, as former Victoria MP and treatment opponent David Anderson implied on Monday during a press confrence, the opportunity remains for the region to lobby for an exemption to the federal rules, based on a lack of scientific evidence supporting the benefits of secondary treatment, that needs to be determined as quickly as possible.

But for the feds to make a funding announcement for the project in the high-profile manner seen last week, it’s clear they’ve made up their mind. The Stephen Harper Conservatives are not in the habit of leaving much to chance when it comes to their public image. Pulling an about-face now, especially after coming out with new federal regulations so soon afterward, would make them look pretty foolish.

The role of the treatment opponents should now shift to keeping the CRD’s feet to the fire and ensuring hundreds of millions of dollars of tax money are spent wisely.



Tristin Hopper  
National Post
Jul 24, 2012

As Victoria readies a long-awaited $780-million plan to stop dumping raw sewage into the Pacific Ocean, a coalition of top ocean scientists are decrying the project as nothing more than pandering to a squeamish electorate.

“It all comes down to the ‘icky factor’; people don’t like the idea of putting poop in the ocean,” said Tom Pedersen, director of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions. “The truth is, we’re in a very fortunate position here in Victoria in which to discharge sewage into a marine setting.”

Almost all of Victoria’s sewage — about 1,500 liters per second — is discharged through two pipes running more than a kilometre off the city’s southern coast. Aside from a 6mm mesh that sieves out condoms, feminine products and other large particulates, the sewage is untreated.

The new plan, announced last week at an upscale hotel on the Victoria waterfront, would see sewage funneled to a waterfront treatment plant at the entrance to the city’s iconic Inner Harbour. After liquid sewage was filtered away, the remaining “sludge” would be piped 20 kilometres north to a “biosolids digestion facility” at the city’s Hartland Landfill. “Its time has come, and we’re taking action,” said Conservative MP James Moore.

Although the project is backed by more than $500-million in provincial and federal funding, it is expected to add up to $500 per year to local property tax bills.

In a July 18 open letter, Chrétien-era environment minister David Anderson, who lives in Victoria, criticized the project as a unnecessary boondoggle that ignored “decades” of scientific evidence. “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,” he wrote.

Victoria is the only major Pacific Coast city north of San Diego without any sewage treatment. Halifax used to dump untreated waste into its harbour until it inaugurated a $333-million treatment plant in 2008. Within months, the city’s beaches were opening to swimmers for the first time in decades.

But while Halifax was dumping its waste into an enclosed basin, Victoria is simply injecting “a tiny pinprick of nutrient-laden, organic sewage” into the deep, fast, oxygen-rich waters of the Juan da Fuca strait, said Mr. Pedersen. “It’s mostly organic matter, and Mother Nature’s really good at processing that,” he said.

A 2008 op-ed by eight B.C. ocean scientists concurred. “It makes no sense to replace a natural ecosystem service with a human creation that is energy inefficient and has other harmful environmental consequences,” it read. That same year, six former B.C. medical health officers also rose up in opposition to a treatment regime. “The proposed additional treatment will not result in any improvement for public health and may in fact have a negative impact,” it read.

Of course, in addition to organic matter, Victoria’s sewage is also laden with pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals and pretty much anything else that can fit in a toilet bowl. For that, say scientists, the city needs to implement a stricter “source control” regime to educate citizens about flushing noxious substances.

In a 2004 Ipsos-Reid survey, Victorians favoured “enhanced source control” over any other form of waste management. Nevertheless, a 2006 scientific review dismissed source control as an “unlikely” solution to contaminated wastewater, particularly as the city’s population increases.

For nearly 20 years, sewage has been a popular point of contention for Victoria student groups, environmental advocates and community organizations. People Opposed to Outflow Pollution (POOP), was easily the most visible. The organization’s mascot, an anthropomorphized log of human excrement named Mr. Floatie, could often be seen marching in parades or handing out literature in Victoria’s tourist district.

By this point, however, sewage treatment is a legal matter. Since 2006, Victoria has been under a provincial order to improve its treatment program, and the facilities will likely be needed to pass muster on an upcoming set of federal water regulations. Regardless, opponents maintain that the city may still be able to duck the project by applying for a waiver.

COMMENTS (currently 53):


Denise Savoie MP
Times Colonist
July 25, 2012
Letter to editor: letters@timescolonist.com

David Anderson's suggestion that federal funding for the wastewater treatment system is in doubt is without merit.

I have met with three ministers who have all confirmed that the federal contribution is secure. Given the recent announcement in Victoria and Infrastructure Canada's written approval, the funding arrangement's passage through Treasury Board is a formality.

The chances of the federal government deviating from a well-established funding process and reneging on its funding commitment are minuscule, despite Anderson's attempt to sow uncertainty and confusion over the project's viability. Indeed, this funding supports the fact that new federal regulations require a new secondary-treatment plant in the first place.

It is needlessly inflammatory to throw this non-issue into an already heated public debate about wastewater treatment. Let's get on with it.

Denise Savoie, MP



Saanich News
July 24, 2012
Click here to send letter to Saanich News

The Core Area Wastewater Treatment Project will bring the CRD into compliance with two sets of legislation which apply to wastewater discharges; the B.C. provincial Municipal Sewage Regulation, under the Environmental Management Act, and the Federal Wastewater System Effluent Regulations under the Fisheries Act.

Without moving forward with the Core Area Wastewater Treatment Project, the CRD would not be in compliance in our region with the new standards, and face penalties including fines. To be in compliance with both the provincial directive and federal regulations concerning the discharge of wastewater effluent, the CRD is required to have secondary sewage treatment in place by 2020. The new facilities will be designed to meet these requirements and will be a significant benefit to the residents of the region and our receiving marine environment.

The CRD has a commitment to meet regulations. We are fortunate to have a funding commitment from our provincial and federal government partners. Many other communities are now wondering how they will fund complying with the new federal standards.

The CRD and the core area municipalities of Colwood, Esquimalt, Langford, Oak Bay, Saanich, Victoria and View Royal have been working on the cost allocation for the wastewater treatment program for the last two years to arrive at a fair and equitable approach that has incentives and is understandable, stable and straightforward to administer.

The CRD will allocate costs to the municipalities and each municipality will decide how best to recover costs from their residents. Cost allocation will be based on each municipality’s required treatment capacity. The CRD’s analysis to date shows that the highest average household cost by municipality is less than $500 annually and the lowest average cost by municipality is just over $200 annually.

Denise Blackwell
Langford Councillor and Chair, CRD Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee



Daniel Palmer
Victoria News
July 24, 2012 9:46 AM

The Capital Regional District should request an exemption under new federal regulations that require it to build a sewage treatment system, says a local group opposed to the project.

The Association for Responsible and Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment (ARESST) believes the current system of pumping screened sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca is safe and effective.

The group held a press conference at Clover Point on Monday and called on the CRD to refuse to begin construction unless an environmental impact assessment can prove the current system is causing harm.

"What annoys scientists is when people pretend to be doing things for scientific reasons when they're not," said prof. Chris Garrett of the University of Victoria's Earth and Ocean Sciences Department.

The federal government's Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations were announced last week and require all municipalities to meet a threshold for sewage treatment. They estimate 25 per cent of municipalities across the country will require sewage treatment upgrades to comply.

Former federal environment minister David Anderson said the regulations are too broad and need to be adjusted for regions like Greater Victoria that treat their sewage by alternative means.

"If the federal government decided to have the same snow removal requirements for Victoria as in Quebec, we would call that ridiculous," Anderson said.

But CRD board chair Geoff Young said the regulations are "here to stay" and the region has no plans to apply for an exemption.

Any delay could also risk losing the combined $500-million promised from higher levels of government for the project, he said.

"It very clear through new regulations that the discharge of raw sewage is not going to be something that the governments are prepared to accept."


John Newcomb, member of ARESST (Association for Responsible and Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment), speaks during a media conference Monday in front of the pumping station at Clover Point. The group is asking the Capital Regional District to investigate an exemption to the federal government's new wastewater treatment regulations, as a way to avoid spending nearly $1 billion on facilities.


Brian Burchill speaks as he and other members of ARESST, the Association for Responsible and Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment, gather Monday at the Clover Point pump station to denounce the CRD plan.



Bruce Cuthbert has combined an image of Sydney Opera House with our Victoria Harbour's McLoughlin Point site using Google Earth tools. It’s a persuasive argument that the entrance to Victoria’s Inner Harbour - at McLoughlin Point -  is so much more than "half a kilometre away from residential neighbourhoods" Judy Brownoff, October 2010.

In 2003, the Esquimalt Parks & Recreation Strategic Plan Final report states:
"DND has plans to divest itself of 90% of its Work Point lands ... The ‘highest and best use’ of this land in real estate terms is high quality housing, and there is capacity in the land to build literally hundreds of units." "This process offers unbelievable potential for the municipality". ...  Federal properties are again under review....
http://www.esquimalt.ca/files/PDF/Municipal_Hall/2004-2013ParksRecStrategicPlan.pdf pg 45,46

Considerations of "Highest and Best Use" and "potential" seems to included in the options analysis in most major projects across CRD municipalities, but overlooked in this option.

click on image to enlarge