December 2, 2012

ARESST on Facebook and Twitter: @stopabadplan  


CRD Sewage Committee at 10:30am, 12 December 
CRD Board at 1:30pm, 12 December







Wednesday, Dec 12: 

CRD Sewage Committee at 10:30am AGENDA  and Reports. Wear yellow tshirt!
CRD Board meets at 1:30pm AGENDA (includes Reports). Wear yellow tshirt!

To address the Board, click here to: submit this internet form

Requests must be received no later than two calendar days prior to the meeting. For a Wednesday meeting, this means forms are required by 4:30 p.m. on Monday of the week of the meeting.





Victoria News
December 02, 2012 7:23pm

I worked for four years on the Capital Region’s sewage treatment project, researching, talking to scientists and politicians, reading literature and translating engineering plans.

As an educated citizen, a homeowner in Saanich and someone no longer directly involved in the project, I want to voice my dissent for the current plan.

After looking at all of the information available, it became obvious to me that storm water is the major issue in danger of harming our oceans and streams, not sewage.

With proper education and source control by each resident, we can prevent medications, fats, oils and grease from entering our sewage system in the first place.

That leaves only the screened waste that comes from our bodies; the science demonstrates that this does no harm to Victoria’s unique, strong ocean current coast.

This treatment plan is a mistake.

We could put a fraction of the amount of money it will cost to implement this project, instead, toward source control efforts and toward storm water treatment projects such as rain gardens, rooftop gardens and enhancement of urban greenspace areas.

All such initiatives help prevent petroleum products, pesticides, metals and antifreeze from entering our creeks and coastlines.

The current treatment plan does not address storm water.

We could do this and still have mountains of cash left over for things we really need in this region, like light-rail transit and protection of forest lands.

Maleea Acker



Victoria News
December 02, 2012 9pm

Re: Sewage issue goes national (Our View, Nov. 23).

In conjunction with Monday’s federal byelection in Victoria, the arbitrary decision to proceed with the $780-million Capital Regional District sewage treatment project became a national issue.

All parties sent in heavyweights to support their Victoria riding candidates. By association, they and the parties adopted their respective candidates’ position on sewage treatment. Again the adage “all politics are local” is proven true.

Many taxpayers opposed plans to replace the present sewage disposal system that local scientists and technical experts say has not damaged the environment. As a result, all candidates except the NDP’s Murray Rankin either reversed or softened their positions on the need for immediate mandatory construction of a new treatment facility.

Rankin did not win the election with a majority, but with a narrow plurality. And he did not win because he supported the sewage disposal wishes of the majority of voters. Their preferences were evident in the results, with 24,478 votes for candidates that either opposed or recommended cautious review of the new sewage-treatment proposal, with 14,519 for Rankin.

Our municipal and regional government leaders should note these results reflecting the scientifically supported wishes of the electorate. Current sewage-treatment decisions will be long remembered by voters.

Of lesser importance, the brown-costumed excrement replica and former sewage-treatment mascot, Mr. Floatie, was recently removed from a Green Party event. That this former media darling now lacks endorsement from any political party is encouraging news.

The lack of demonstrated environmental damage with our existing sewage system must be a determining factor in long-term decisions. With the present screened outfalls, the only thing that can embarrassingly surface is an excreted born-again Mr. Floatie.

Let’s not subject ourselves to unwarranted fiscal expenditure and Floatie ridicule. We should cancel the proposed Capital Regional District sewage plan and figuratively flush both environmental ideology and Mr. Floatie down the toilet.

Ron Johnson



Saanich News
December 04, 2012 

A huge volume of water flows up and down the Salish Sea.

There is no scientific reason for secondary treatment of Victoria’s sewage. The sewage is greatly diluted, and no one swims in the Strait because it’s too cold. No one drinks the water because it’s salty.

Tourists are already coming to Victoria. They are not going to stop coming because we continue to do what we do with our liquid waste.

Tourists might stop coming to Victoria because the Inner Harbour ceases to be picturesque because of the new mega-marina.

Modern humans are causing one of the great mass extinctions.  Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide will cause more global warming and more extinctions.

Constructing the secondary sewage treatment plant will worsen the problem: turning limestone into cement generates a huge amount of CO2, as does the transportation needed for a major construction project.  Running the secondary treatment plant requires a lot of electricity.

The decision about building the secondary treatment plant can be postponed until there is a method and a need to harvest the valuable phosphorus, nitrogen and organic material in liquid waste.

With regards to the proposal to build a secondary sewage treatment plant in Greater Victoria, and the proposal to build a pipeline for refined tar across the province, it feels like we are living in a dictatorship -- the will of the people is being ignored.

Robert Shepherd


DECEMBER 4, 2012
Re: No need to upgrade sewage treatment, Letter, Nov. 28

This letter was a verbatim response from a civil engineering textbook printed in the 1970s when terms like endocrine disrupters, climate change, carbon credits, PBDEs and phosphorus depletion were unknown terms.

The old "dilution is the solution to pollution" mantra is no longer valid, nor taught in civil engineering.

What is taught is resource and energy recovery, tertiary treatment using the BNR process, and lately, a revolutionary method developed at UBC to recover phosphorus from sewage treatment plants as struvite.

We're now piloting a modified process to recover phosphorus and carbon from dairy manure, generate significant cash flows for farmers, and protect receiving water from phosphorus and nitrogen pollution, and microbial pathogens (remember Walkerton, Ont.)?

So does Victoria need improved sewage treatment? You bet it does. It needs tertiary treatment so taxpayers can recover phosphorus, nitrogen, methane and sell it for a profit, generate carbon credits, reduce operating costs and not discharge pollutants that get amplified in food webs to the point where dead killer whales are declared toxic waste because of the high concentration of persistent organic pollutants in their body tissues.

It is time to stop flushing valuable resources out to sea.

Dr. K. Ashley 
Adjunct professor, 
Civil Engineering Dept., UBC



Monday Magazine
6 December 2012

Re: "Diving into murky waters” Editorial, Nov. 29 - Dec. 5

Editor  Grant McKenzie's problem is that he didn't seek any other perspective than Crow — no engineer, no oceanographer, no marine biologist, no CRD sewage specialist.

Crow's problem is that as with so many commentators on Victoria's marine-based sewage issue, he confuses CRD's bad storm water issue with our environmentally-sustainable long sewage outfalls.

Examples of Crow's confusion include his use of descriptions such as "...tidal currents running along Victoria and Esquimalt waterfronts... entire Esquimalt waterfront... off Victoria waterfront."

Monitoring by the CRD and scientists of our sewage outfalls confirms that there are no health or environmental problems.

However, while the recent Cohen salmon commission made no mention of our marine-based sewage treatment system, it did raise concerns about the CRD's stormwater drainage into salmon habitat.

Funny how with so many scuba divers and fisherfolks around, its only this current byelection profile that seems to have induced Allan Crow to mistakenly complain about our marine-treatment system.

John Newcomb,



Victoria News
December 06, 2012 9pm

Ten of 14 members on the Capital Regional District’s sewage committee are itching to push taxpayers into a huge financial black hole with the CRD’s treatment project, despite the lack of a sensible, conservative financial strategy.

B.C. promises to pay its one-third share of the $783-billion cost when the project is finished – after the CRD proves it works – and after the federal government contributes its one-third share. CRD taxpayers will cover the other third, plus any cost overruns.

The province and feds haven’t signed anything that guarantees their conditional promises. But don’t worry, politicians never go back on their word, do they? And government projects never go over budget, do they?

The proposed system’s effective life is 20 years, give or take. Components such as the concrete should last a long time, unlike other components such as the capacity. The technology could well be obsolete before the plant is complete and the benefits are nil.

If we’re stuck with high cost overruns, reneged promises, operating costs and interest, the potential financial drain on CRD taxpayers could cripple the local economy. The sewage committee’s legacy could be skyrocketing property taxes and utility bills, negatively impacted property values and a higher cost of living, potentially causing people to move out of the region.

Approving the project without an appropriate financial plan is beyond poor judgment. It’s irresponsible, dangerous, high risk and grossly negligent.

Nine days ago, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty forecast higher federal deficits that put election promises in doubt. A week later, he pledged more cash for Victoria, noting that the Building Canada Fund doesn’t expire until 2014. But promises aren’t worth squat.

The CRD can hope for the best, but should provide for the worst by signing sewage-water-tight financial agreements with B.C. and the feds before going a step further. Financial plans B, C and D would help, too.

Norman Clark



Victoria News
December 06, 2012

Re: Pro-treatment candidate outvoted by others (Letters, Nov. 30)

Writer Ron Johnson is what I would call a cherry picker – someone who will pick any minuscule detail and exploit it to the max to try to make a case for a weak position.

He claims that the Victoria byelection was a referendum on secondary sewage treatment, and that more electors voted against it but their votes were split between the five unsuccessful candidates. Sorry Mr. Johnson, it was not a single issue byelection.

Both the Green Party candidate and the NDP talked about the homelessness issue and the need for a national housing strategy. Anyone in Victoria would have to be living under a rock to not know the city has a homelessness problem and that many more people are one paycheque away from joining the homeless.

There are no doubt lots of people angry at Stephen Harper for his recent changes to Old Age Security. You would also be hard pressed to miss the massive opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline and business dealings with China, with its poor human rights record.

The Green Party campaigned on the byelection advantage that people can vote for who they feel should win, not vote strategically.

But no, Mr. Johnson argues, voters ignored all these other issues and voted based on who was for, or against, building a secondary sewage treatment facility.

What about the 56 per cent of eligible voters who didn’t even bother to get to the polls at all on Nov. 26?

Despite what Ron Johnson states in his letter, sewage treatment in Victoria did not become a national issue. The whole darn country is not concerned with issues here. Nobody in Medicine Hat, Alta. or Killaloe, Ont. or Saint John, N.B. are losing any sleep fretting over whether the treatment centre is built or what it will cost.

Andre Mollon



ARESST: Not mentioned in story below is that both the federal and BC governments have already rejected our calls for an environmental impact assessment for the sewage project itself, but in fact, the $210 million McLoughlin Point sewage treatment plant is only a minor part of the $790 million capital cost and a bigger part is that P3 "energy plant" at Hartland landfill, and its 50 kms of pipes, and on the as-yet unknown final disposition of thousand of tons of biodigested sewage sludge.  

Oak Bay's Nils Jensen wants CRD to review 'science' of proposal
Rob Shaw
Times Colonist

Oak Bay's mayor wants an independent environmental assessment of the region's proposed sewage treatment megaproject - and will put the idea to a vote this week.

A motion by Nils Jensen to launch the environmental study and seek joint funding from the provincial and federal governments for the work will go before the Capital Regional District's sewage committee on Wednesday.

"The ultimate goal is to do the right thing with this [project]," said Jensen, whose motion was approved by Oak Bay council.

"If that [means] we move forward on sewage treatment, we'd be supportive of that, if that's what the science shows. On the other hand, if the science shows what we're about to embark on has much more significant deleterious effects, then I think we need to reconsider what we're doing."

The CRD is proposing a $783-million sewage treatment plant, with a secondary treatment facility at Esquimalt's McLoughlin Point. The project, which has yet to begin construction, is scheduled for completion by 2018 and has two-thirds funding from the provincial and federal governments.

Critics have said the CRD's treatment plan - which requires building a large plant and laying down new pipes - would cause more harm to the environment than the current practice of discharging screened sewage into the ocean.

Some marine scientists and local health officials say the deep, cold local ocean currents safely disperse the waste with little environmental harm.

Jensen admits it will be a challenge to come up with an environmental assessment that compares existing conditions to potential future treatment and future harm. But it is possible, he said.

"We've had environmental impact studies done on virtually every large project," he said.

"I'm certainly confident that the science would at least allow us to make some valuable comparisons, to allow us to come to the appropriate decision."

CRD staff said they have already undertaken detailed environmental impact studies on each aspect of the treatment proposal, and the Oak Bay proposal couldn't be completed before treatment plans are finalized.

"Even if such an environmental study could be undertaken before the CRD plans are finalized, regardless of the outcome of the study, the CRD would still be required to comply with the provincial order and the federal regulation," CRD interim project director Jack Hull said in a report to politicians on the sewage committee.

Jensen's motion is the latest hurdle for the project, which recently survived a vote that would have suspended the plan while officials sought changes to federal wastewater regulations.

If the motion passes, Jensen hopes the federal and provincial governments would set a new project timeline to allow for the study.

"It's inconceivable to me that, if it is shown there's a larger risk to the environment by proceeding, surely the governments are not going to force us to do something that's deleterious or detrimental," Jensen said.


ARESST: Incredible mistakes in article below! One clear issue is that writer did not state clearly that DFO maintains sanitary shellfish harvest ban areas around the discharge pipe mouths of all sewage treatment plants no matter what stage of treatment, and that these areas are expanding because sewage treatment plants cannot effectively deal with all viruses. 

Even with a sewage plant, at least a 300 metre radius would be maintained and as well as Dr Shaun Peck quote below, Dr. Richard Stanwick has also said clearly that because of the hazardous storm drain discharges, he would advocate that a shellfish harvest ban continue, probably meaning at the current larger area than 300 metres because that is so far offshore. Stanwick agrees that it is stormdrain discharges that are the health issue (at 00:45:50 minute mark in Oak Bay Town Hall video)

In addition to publishing that bad article, Monday Magazine published web poll with question "Should Victoria Treat Its Sewage?", totally ignoring our current preliminary stage treatment in place - and of course, 76% said Yes, 19% replied "No". However, in their Street Smarts poll of only 4 people, all four gave at least mild endorsement to our current system, with a scuba diver saying most strongly "We don't need this plant.".


Danielle Pope
Monday Magazine
December 05, 2012

Activists, scientists still disagree about safety of Victoria’s sewage

Shellfish in the south Island may not get a say in how Victoria treats its sewage, but the bi-valve creatures could be speaking volumes.

A shellfish contamination alert has permanently closed an area from Albert Head in Metchosin around the southern tip of the Island to Cordova Bay, the region bordering Victoria’s two sewage outfalls. The sanitary closure isn’t news — the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has preserved this year-round harvesting ban since 1990, just years after the outfalls were installed — but the impact on mollusks and crustaceans in the region has some considering the messages.

“The majority of contamination we see is in the area of the outfalls,” says Elysha Gordon, shellfish biologist with the DFO and resource management coordinator for the Canadian Shellfish Sanitization Program. “With most fish and animals, the animal eats something, then excretes it. With bi-valves, and sometimes crabs, the substances it eats accumulate and stay in its body.”

The Macaulay and Clover Point outfalls have been in use since the 1970s, with wastewater passing through fine, six-millimetre screens that remove solid objects larger than a thumbtack. The remaining wastewater is jetted out through two multi-port outfalls located 60 metres below the surface, where it mixes with seawater and is dispersed by tidal currents in the Juan de Fuca Strait. Yet with time crunching down on the Capital Regional District to assert a new sewage plan, activists on both sides of the issue are stoking the debate.

“Diluting our waste into the sea is totally irresponsible, and we are using an outdated view from the ’90s,” says Victoria City Councillor Ben Isitt. “I’m convinced treatment is the way to go. The age of easy money to build infrastructure is behind us — we’ll never have as much money as we do now, so the only answer is to stop pollution now.”

But while an impact seems clear, Isitt agrees that only time will tell the environmental and financial reactions caused from the proposed secondary sewage treatment plant — a proposal that will mean redistributing more concentrated waste either to Hartland Landfill or other yet unknown means of disposal. Some residents have taken a firm stance against leaping into salty water before all the facts are clear.

“Shellfish are banned for contamination near most densely populated areas due to the pollution of storm drain run-off, so I think it is very unlikely that, even if the outfalls had more treatment, we would see the ban lift,” says Dr. Shaun Peck, former medical officer of health to the CRD and a board member of the Association for Responsible and Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment (ARESST). “It is very difficult to see the clear benefit that a treatment plant would give Victoria … what we’re dealing with here is people’s belief systems versus the evidence.”

So far, that evidence has shown surface water sampling around the outfalls to record safe fecal coliform levels that have remained well below B.C.’s guidelines to protect swimmers — although some higher levels (termed “plumes”) have been recorded in the winter months near the end of the outfalls.

In 2008, a CRD-lead study found that “minor effects” resulted from the discharge area (approximately the size of a football field) around each outfall. While the majority of sediment substances were found to be at levels similar to previous years, a few substances, like metals, showed an increase in concentration close to the outfalls. 

Even in that report four years ago, the CRD predicted there could be potential effects on seafloor organisms within these areas, though they also discovered an increase in organisms closer to the outfalls, likely due to “an abundant food source” from the discharge. These “outfall communities” also showed a different composition of organisms, although the CRD reported that their function and health were similar to communities further away — at Clover Point, mussels near the outfall were larger than those further away. Measurements of age and reproductive status, as well as tissue chemistry showed “no harmful effects” from the outfall, though the shellfish-harvesting ban was in effect then.

Gordon says, indeed, there are “no guarantees” that the ban would be lifted with additional treatment on the sewage. But while the DFO only enforces sanitary closures (Environment Canada deals with water-quality testing and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency handles shellfish safety), Gordon says treatment is important to water safety.

“What we are concerned about is that shellfish do have the potential to carry viruses, like norovirus and hepatitis, which they can consume through effluent, and that’s why the closures are important,” she says. “There are just a lot of people and a lot of excretion. I don’t think we could leave nature to do this job — we need to offer all the help we can.” M