August 3, 2014

Audio-Visual News:
Oak Bay Councillor Green on CFAX
- Murray Rankin on a decentralized system
- The RITE Plan's Youtube Channel

News stories:
B.C. premier vows sewage treatment for Victoria — someday
Clark reassures U.S. politicians on capital region sewage
Victoria pumps sewage despite orders while groups squabble
- Derman: The Sewage Treatment Project – Where Do We Go?

Saanich residents are poorly represented (Etheridge)



Audio-Visual News:

Oak Bay Councillor Green on CFAX

On CFAX 1070 Wed, 30 July, Ian Jessop read a blog posting from Oak Bay Councillor Cairine Green during his show and offered an editorial of some of her comments and the sewage situation:
Murray Rankin on a decentralized system: 

RITE Plan's Youtube Channel

Frequently updated with the most vital and interesting snippets that show the best and the worst of the CRD's sewage planning process

News stories:

B.C. premier vows sewage treatment for Victoria — someday

Erik Smith
Seattle Times
28 July 2014

It took more than a month, but the premier of British Columbia in Canada has finally answered a letter from Washington’s congressional delegation about the million gallons of raw sewage the city of Victoria flushes every hour into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

And somehow that seems fitting, since it has been more than 20 years since Washington started beating the drum about Victoria’s plumbing problems. No one north of the border seems to be in any particular hurry.

The Democratic members of Washington’s congressional delegation wrote B.C. Premier Christy Clark June 13 to urge that the province find a sewage solution “as soon as possible.” Clark’s rather tardy response promises to hold the southern end of Vancouver Island to a requirement that it develop a new sewage treatment plant. But she fails to address the key question. When, exactly? Will she even be in office? Which century?

We have made it clear that sewage treatment will happen,” she says. “That is not up for debate. Failure to comply with these obligations would result in the possible loss of provincial and federal funding, as well as other potential penalties under federal and provincial laws.

Thank you again for writing, and I am pleased to provide you with this response.

So much for that. The greater Victoria area, home to 300,000 people, is the last major metropolitan area in North America —  some say the Western Hemisphere — to dump its raw sewage at sea. Washington officials see nothing quaint and charming about those backward island ways. They shamed the provincial government into taking action as B.C. bid for the 2010 winter Olympics. For a time it looked like a plant might actually be built — first in 2016, then in 2018. But the plan seemed to go down the drain three months ago when the town council in Esquimalt nixed a plan to build a $721 million (U.S.) sewage treatment plant. So far, no plan B has emerged.

Clark’s letter really adds nothing new to the debate. Significantly, she stops short of announcing that she will overrule the Esquimalt town council. The letter merely reiterates a warning provincial government officials have put forward numerous times during the debate. If islanders don’t bring the plant online by 2018, they risk losing financial support from the provincial and federal governments, which were going to pick up two-thirds of the tab. It is hard making much of that threat. If the cost of sewage treatment was too high for islanders when they were paying only one-third of the cost, it is hard to imagine them enthusiastically paying 100 percent of the bill. It is equally hard to imagine them voting for politicians who would force them to do it.

From these shores it seems easier to ask the big question: When will the Canadians ever do anything? It is a question that rankles, as state and federal regulators in this country seek to impose water-quality standards so stringent they can’t be measured and contemplate regulations that would prevent boaters from flushing treated sewage into the Sound, even one tank at a time. Many Canadians continue to argue their massive disposal-at-sea poses no harm at all. America’s position is sounded in a formal way in the letter of complaint from Washington’s congressional delegation. But there might be a better way to put it: Oh, poo.

Below is a transcript of the June 13, signed by Washington’s eight House and Senate Democrats: U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and Reps. Suzan DeBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Jim McDermott, Adam Smith and Denny Heck.

Dear Premier Clark:

We are very disappointed to learn that the development of a new sewage treatment facility at McLoughlin Point has been delayed. For the last 20 years, American citizens have waited for solutions to water quality issues linked to British Columbia’s sewage discharge. Unfortunately, while Canada has acknowledged the importance of addressing this concern, there is now no plan to mitigate the persistent water pollution from Victoria, British Columbia.

The strength of our economies in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia depends on the health of our waterways and natural resources.  Washington state supports more than 67,000 commercial fishing jobs, in addition to our vibrant recreational fishing, boating, watersport, and tourism businesses.  The practice of discharging this type and volume of waste violates environmental standards commonly held by our two nations. Furthermore, while significant treatment efforts have been made on the United States side of our maritime border, the effectiveness of these efforts is undermined without cross-border collaboration, treatment, and restoration activities.

In fact, scientists in both of our home countries have seen perpetually decreasing dissolved oxygen levels in our waters—an outcome linked with untreated sewage discharge. These changing dissolved oxygen levels endanger sensitive aquatic habitats vital to the Puget Sound’s marine economy. Together, we must work to ensure that we have adequate wastewater treatment facilities  so that we can improve dissolved oxygen levels and the overall water quality in the Salish Sea to protect human health and the marine ecosystem.

Our countries have worked hard to coordinate international collaboration on major environmental problems in the past and we hope to work together to solve this problem.  Since its inception in 2003, the U.S. and Canada have established the largest, most comprehensive ecosystem conference in the region – the biennial Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference.  This conference is a great example of how the U.S. and British Columbia have collaborated to bring together experts from interdisciplinary fields to discuss scientific research and chart a course for protecting and restoring the Salish Sea ecosystem.

The Salish Sea is an economic and cultural lifeline for the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia.  In fact, Washington state’s maritime economy supports $30 billion in economic activity each year and provides 148,000 jobs. Due to the importance of these waters to both our countries, we ask that you work promptly to resolve this issue. Furthermore, as we continue to work towards restoring the Salish Sea for generations to come, we welcome ongoing collaboration on restoration, research and preservation efforts to best serve our people and our waterways.  We hope you will stand with us as we work to improve the quality of our waters and reduce unnecessary pollution.
Clark reassures U.S. politicians on capital region sewage

JULY 28, 2014

Premier Christy Clark has reassured U.S. lawmakers that Greater Victoria will have to treat its sewage or face possible financial penalties.

In a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee and other senior politicians, Clark said she fully expects the Capital Regional District to meet federal and provincial requirements for sewage treatment.

“We have made it clear that sewage treatment will happen — this is not up for debate,” she writes. “Failure to comply with these obligations would result in the possible loss of federal and provincial funding, as well as other potential penalties under federal and provincial laws.”

The federal government has agreed to contribute $253.4 million and the province $248 million to the project if it’s completed by 2018.

The plan hit a major roadblock when Esquimalt refused to rezone McLoughlin Point for a regional treatment plant, and the B.C. government declined to override that decision.

The dispute prompted letters from Inslee and other Washington state politicians alarmed at the potential for further delays.

Inslee complained in his June letter that 20 years have passed since British Columbia first agreed to wastewater treatment in Greater Victoria.

“After years of discussion, planning and commitments on an inter-governmental level, we urge you to get involved to ensure that this project moves forward,” Inslee wrote.

Clark gave no indication of intervening in the dispute.

Victoria Coun. Geoff Young, who chairs the CRD's liquid waste management committee, said it’s clear from the premier’s letter that sewage treatment must happen.

“Certainly that is the reading of most of the board that there is not any way of avoiding doing sewage treatment,” he said.

Young continues to push the CRD’s offer of $19 million to cover Esquimalt’s share of the capital costs if it reverses course and allows the plant at McLoughlin Point.

“My main hope is that Esquimalt residents will speak to their Esquimalt councillors,” he said.

“I think when people say to them, ‘Gosh, why are we paying our taxes to build a plant in the centre of downtown Esquimalt when the CRD would have built one for us for free at McLoughlin Point? I think some of them will have a tough time answering that question.”

But Saanich Coun. Vic Derman called that strategy “bankrupt,” and Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said it’s gaining little traction among Esquimalt residents.

“I think people are a little bit disgusted with the idea of the proposal,” she said.

Desjardins said Esquimalt council rejected McLoughlin Point following a full public process, and that it’s time the CRD looked at other options.

If the CRD makes a formal request for Esquimalt to reconsider its decision, it will trigger another public process and eat up more time with no guarantee of a different outcome, she said.

“McLoughlin went through its process and it did not get re-zoned, so it’s time to move on,” she said. “We, in Esquimalt, are doing that.”

Victoria pumps sewage despite orders while groups squabble

Mark Sabourin
8/1/2014 9:40:00 AM

Victoria, that shimmering jewel in Canada’s urban crown, has since its founding been hiding a dirty secret, one that is now being debated openly. What residents of Victoria and the greater Capital Regional District have always known is that its sewage was being pumped, screened but otherwise untreated, directly into the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, at a rate of 83 million stinking litres per day.

Plans to set that right were put in motion in 2006 on orders from the province, and were given further impetus by the federal Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations (SOR/2012-139) which, in 2012, made secondary treatment mandatory.

But now, plans for a $780-million sewage treatment plant are stalled. The City of Esquimalt, chosen by the Capital Regional District to host the proposed treatment plant, is refusing to rezone the chosen property to allow construction. The province has declined to intervene in a matter (zoning) within municipal jurisdiction. The Governor of the neighbouring State of Washington has written a sternly-worded letter to the Premier, reminding her that the province agreed to deal with the problem 20 years ago, and hinting that further delays will strain relations between the two governments.

Opponents of the plans fall mostly into two camps, says Margot Venton, a lawyer with Ecojustice who, on behalf of her clients, is trying to move the project forward once more. Longstanding opponents to sewage treatment argue that Victoria’s waste is really little more than a drop in a very big ocean. No treatment is needed, they say. Another group opposes the plans as currently drawn, labelling a large sewage treatment plant the technology of previous generations and calling instead for a more modern, decentralized approach.

Venton and her clients have sympathy for the latter group. However, cost and practicality stand in the way of a state-of-the-art system. There is sewage infrastructure already in place. The pipes are in the ground, Venton told EcoLog News, making a large treatment plant far more practicable.

On behalf of the Georgia Strait Alliance and the T. Buck Suzuki Foundation, Venton has now warned Esquimalt city council that she will press to have the two outfalls for the Capital Regional District’s sewage cleaned up unless it allows the sewage treatment plant to go forward. In 2005, an assessment of the seabeds around the outfalls determined that they qualified as a contaminated site, though no remediation order was issued. Instead, says Venton, the following year (2006) the province ordered the Capital Regional District to build a treatment plant.

“Over time, we’ve kind of forgotten that part of the backstory,” says Venton, but her clients are clear that the outfalls are at the centre of an environmental problem. If the Capital Regional District won’t address it with a treatment plant, the province should address it through remediation.

Ultimately, says Venton, the Capital Regional District is facing two clear demands from two levels of government. There’s the 2006 order from the province, and the new federal Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations. Between the two, the Capital Regional District really has no choice but to treat its effluent, and to do so fairly soon.

“Ultimately, that’s what my clients want people to understand,” says Venton.
Latest from Vic Derman, Posted by Richard Atwell to The Rite Plan facebook page, 3 August 2014

Derman: The Sewage Treatment Project – Where Do We Go?

Esquimalt’s decision not to zone to CRD requirements and the Province’s decision not to intervene have created a kind of “enforced hiatus” for the core area sewage treatment project. We should seize this opportunity to re-think what was likely a flawed project. Ultimately, the core area and its citizens will benefit from a better outcome that could and should result and that, most certainly, would be a good thing. We should begin by asking the Province for an extension until the end of 2020, the time when federal regulations kick in. We should also move very quickly to investigate other possible designs such as a distributed system. To be accepted by the public at large, any such an investigation must be seen as: 

1. open to all ideas, technologies and designs 
2. active in reviewing the literature and seeking to encourage submissions, 
3. comprehensive in presenting all technologies, approaches and opportunities, 
4. leading edge without being “bleeding edge”
5. independent and objective with no connections to special interests or “traditional” interests in the sewage industry 

It might be appropriate to have the investigation led by a retired deputy minister or someone of similar status. Whoever leads the investigation should insure that submissions are sought from organizations and individuals large and small who have shown particular knowledge, expertise and leadership in leading edge designs including distributed systems. The final report presented should be accompanied by an appendix containing unedited versions of all submissions received. This process need not incur the time and expense involved in a full scale Request for Proposals (RFP). A much swifter and less expensive process should be able to give a credible evaluation of “what is out there”.

We should also make the new process much more “outcome driven” and should determine exactly what we expect to accomplish with the very large expenditures involved in treatment. Meeting federal regulations for a minimum of secondary treatment is a given. We should expect to accomplish much more including:

1. MAXIMIZING response to climate change. Given the unfolding crisis that climate change presents, it is absolutely unacceptable to plan and build any major project without insuring that greenhouse gas reduction is optimized. 

2. MAXIMIZING opportunities for resource recovery. This is critical to accomplishing climate change, has potential to reduce life cycle costs and can recover scarce resources present in sewage. 

3. Accomplishing a high standard of treatment. Tertiary disinfected treatment that provides high quality effluent and substantially deals with emerging chemicals should be seen as essential. 

4. Providing best value for money to taxpayers. Value for money is accomplished by achieving benefit substantial enough to justify money spent. It is possible a different approach could have higher initial capital costs. However, accomplishing much higher environmental benefit with lower life cycle costs could still provide excellent value for money to taxpayers. 

5. Looking for opportunities to integrate other parts of the waste stream. Existing gasifier technology might, for example, be able to handle biosolids on a relatively small site for a cost in the order of $50 million. This contrasts with nearly $300 million projected for the biosolids solution in the Seaterra project. In addition, gasifiers are relatively compact and could be located to maximize opportunities for resource recovery. Finally, in addition to biosolids, gasifiers could likely use kitchen scraps as a feedstock. This would deal with two CRD “waste” problems in an environmentally appropriate and fiscally prudent manner. 

6. Restoring public trust in regional government. There is little doubt that the sewage issue has caused much of the general public to question the effectiveness of the CRD. A new, clearly objective, and efficient process of investigation could do much to restore public confidence in the value of regional government. 

Finally, we must insure that all advantages of a given design are considered in decisions made. A distributed system would, for example, likely present the ability to:

1. Phase in capacity on a “just in time” basis. Thereby allowing expenditures to be made when needed.

2. Provide greater flexibility to incorporate future innovation by equipping plants designed for new capacity with “the latest and greatest”.

3. Provide greater resiliency through redundancy. A major catastrophe such as an earthquake could render virtually an entire centralized system inoperable. There is a much greater chance that a distributed system would be able to maintain at least some level of operability. 

4. Provide better opportunities for resource recovery and lower life cycle costs. Distributed plants can be located close to where resources are actually used. This advantage makes substantial resource recovery much more likely.

Vic Derman
August 2, 2014

Vic Derman's website on sewage treatment:


Saanich residents are poorly represented

"Re: “84% in capital region favour amalgamation, poll says,” July 30.

One of the concerns cited in this poll was the loss of local representation. To put this in perspective, one should ask: “How well am I being represented now?”

In my municipality (Saanich), I recently wrote to the five municipal representatives on the Capital Regional District sewage treatment committee. I asked each of them to explain why they weren’t pushing for an independent review of the alternatives. Only two responded, even though Saanich policy requires every written request be answered in writing.

Since 2008, residents of the Prospect Lake District have been requesting a solution to the high-volume, high-speed commuter problem through our neighbourhood. Only 4.9 per cent of the traffic is local. We have petitioned Saanich council three times with a 95 per cent approval to have the speed limit lowered. We have had absolutely no response from council.

I am aware of at least two other Saanich community associations submitting petitions with the same percentage approvals asking for speed reductions. They, too, have had no response.

So if you are not being represented now, what have you got to lose by amalgamating?

Bob Etheridge