October 19, 2014

Leadership needed in sewage issue
Action is necessary to meet deadline
Greater Victoria sewage treatment plan divided by east and west

Important Victoria ranking overlooked (Jamieson)
Uninformed sentiment guides sewage debate (Milne)



 Leadership needed in sewage issue

Times Colonist
14 October 2014, page A9

Implementation of the proposed land-based sewage treatment plan for the core area of the Capital Regional District is stalled.

After Esquimalt council refused the necessary zoning, the CRD announced it would not proceed with a sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point. This means that the treatment plan has to be completely revised and a new liquid waste management plan submitted to the provincial minister of environment. The Seaterra Commission, which was to have implemented the approved plan, does not have a mandate to do anything until a new plan is developed by the CRD.

Following the municipal elections on Nov. 15, there will be a new CRD board and Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee. This will provide an opportunity for the newly elected members to rethink the whole process — providing we have elected people willing to champion this approach.

The scrapped plan has a published estimate of $788.5 million in capital costs and ongoing operating costs of $14.5 million. Tragically, at least $60 million has been spent by the CRD on this plan. The costs of a revised plan are bound to be more than $1 billion for land-based treatment that will have no measurable benefit to the marine environment. And a net negative effect on the combined marine, land and global environments.

Since 2006, when the CRD was ordered by the province to come up with a plan for land-based treatment, the judgment of marine scientists, public health officials and engineers has largely been ignored.

Very credible marine scientists, including several from the University of Victoria, have presented convincing evidence that the present practice of discharging the liquid waste (which is 99 per cent water and has preliminary treatment by screening) into the marine waters off Victoria is causing only a minimal effect on the ocean floor.

These carefully considered opinions, based on the best science, are that the present discharge into the unique marine receiving environment off Victoria is highly effective in treating the effluent without the need for land-based treatment.

Given the enormous cost of any sewage treatment plan, we should challenge those seeking local office to champion an approach to sewage treatment that is based on using the best available science.

This is a difficult path for those seeking office. Many believe that any amount of sewage in the water is unacceptable and a risk to our health and the marine environment. But this is not an evidencebased approach — challenging this view will take political courage. The new 2015 CRD board should show real leadership and find a way around the overarching regulatory environment.

The federal regulations are based on “one size fits all” thinking and do not acknowledge that some areas of Canada, like Victoria, have unique receiving environments. We have an example here of regulations that are not based on the best science. Again, challenging this view will take political courage.

A critical aspect of a science-based approach to protecting the marine environment would also address the issue of chemicals of concern. There is much uncertainty as to the extent to which extra treatment will address this issue. The first step should be to determine the present measurable effect of any chemical of concern in the marine environment. Just because substances can be detected in minute amounts is not enough to spend millions of taxpayers’ dollars unless there is evidence of an effect that will be prevented.

It is time to find an opportunity to influence the regulators on this important issue for Victoria taxpayers. Let’s elect local politicians this November who are truly committed to environmental integrity and common-sense fiscal management.

-  Dr. Shaun Peck was the medical officer of health for the capital region from 1989 to 1995.


Action is necessary to meet deadline

Times Colonist
14 October 2014, page A9

The Capital Regional District is at risk of not only failing to meet its federally legislated deadline to stop dumping raw sewage into Juan de Fuca Strait, but accessing government funding to help pay for any new wastewater treatment infrastructure.

There has been a decade of debate about the proposed secondary treatment facility for McLoughlin Point, but the fact is that the CRD is responsible for implementing secondary wastewater treatment by the federally legislated deadline of 2020. To meet government funding requirements, facility construction would need to be completed by 2018.

On behalf of the signatory associations representing the construction industry, a key driver of the economy, as well as engineers, who oversee large infrastructure projects, including many wastewater and water-treatment facilities in North America, we are extremely concerned with the considerable and long-term economic and environment impacts if the current project plan does not proceed.

CRD chairman Alastair Bryson stated in a letter to Minister of Environment Mary Polak: “ln 2008, Esquimalt Council suggested McLoughlin Point as a suitable site for a wastewater treatment plant, and the CRD has proceeded in good faith that the site would be appropriately rezoned. The CRD has also studied the option of a distributed system with multiple plants throughout the core area and concluded that a distributed system would cost substantially more than what is currently proposed.”

However, on the eve of a formal announcement of the project going ahead at McLoughlin Point, the Township of Esquimalt passed a zoning bylaw that will effectively kill the deal. The township and its supporters somehow believe multiple distributed plants can be built for a lower cost.

The CRD’s study on a distributed system was conducted in detail by a professional engineering firm. However, the township’s assertion is based on no fact — specifically, no estimates or input from construction and engineering professionals who know what the true costs are to design and construct these facilities.

The government funding proposal for McLoughlin Point will be off the table imminently. Once it is, the project will not proceed. The costs associated with this failure are considerable:

• Already approved federal and provincial funding for the project ($501 million of the estimated $783 million total cost), will be lost and likely re-allocated to other projects. Opportunities to access such government funding do not occur often.

• The $60 million of taxpayer money invested by the CRD and private firms pursuing this project will go to waste. There is the potential risk of a lawsuit from private-sector proponents for damages.

• We estimate the costs to date and potential costs over the next three to five years to develop a new plan and go to market at an additional $150 million, without consideration for escalating construction costs.

• Over 80 million litres of raw sewage will continue to be dumped into our waters each day, creating embarrassment and the potential of massive costs to our tourism industry should our neighbours to the south boycott Victoria travel.

When a breach in the tailing pond at the Mount Polley mine released millions of cubic metres of water and fine sand into Polley Lake, public officials were quick to move, visiting the site within hours and setting out regulatory responses to address the issue.

The same clear thinking and definitive action is required here. The province of B.C. and the CRD must act now to meet their obligation and fulfil their mandate to protect the public interest fiscally and environmentally.

-  Keith Sashaw is president and CEO of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies, British Columbia. Manley McLachlan is president of the B.C. Construction Association. Greg Baynton is CEO of the Vancouver Island Construction Association-----------------

Greater Victoria sewage treatment plan divided by east and west

Christine van Reeuwyk
Victoria News
Oct 13, 2014 

The newest sewage treatment tactic divides the region into east and west.

Capital Regional District directors approved a new framework to gauge the value of subset wastewater treatment options at a meeting last week.

This new framework gives Core Area Liquid Waste Management Plan participants the opportunity to have subcommittees, or work individually with the support of CRD staff, to develop and evaluate treatment options for their communities.

Colwood, Esquimalt, Langford, View Royal, and the Songhees Nation make up a west side subcommittee to work with CRD staff and a technical working group to develop a sub-regional wastewater treatment plan.

“That subcommittee will begin to review options that they might consider for those four municipalities in terms of a subregional wastewater treatment plan,” said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen after the meeting. “That opens the way for us to do the same on the east side: Oak Bay, Victoria and Saanich. We’ve already started down that path so yesterday was just the formalization of the west side. We have a working group of chief administrative officers who have had a number of meetings and have begun looking at the issue of what would an east side plan look like.”

In August, council asked staff to begin discussions with the municipality of Saanich and City of Victoria to collectively come up with a “Plan B.” Subcommittees will report to the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee and CRD board and will be supported by CRD staff.

“This will be a very long process. We’re only in the infancy of what we might study,” Jensen said. “When you look at what happened last time … from 2006 to when a contract was tendered was eight years. So a process that complicated in nature is very significant time wise.”



Important Victoria ranking overlooked (Jamieson)

OCTOBER 15, 2014

Re: “Look in the mirror for the best comparison,” Oct. 12.

Columnist David Bly overlooked one other important ranking for Victoria while squinting into the mirror, that being first in the category of “poop capital.”

As the only capital city in Canada that drops untreated sewage into the surrounding sea, Victoria should be nothing but proud of that continuing achievement. Even Iqaluit processes its sewage.

It is incredible living in small Campbell River (which, by the way, does treat its sewage and not dump it straight into Discovery Strait) to watch the inability of Victoria and Capital Regional District to enter the 20th century.

N. Frank Jamieson
Campbell River



Uninformed sentiment guides sewage debate (Milne)

OCTOBER 16, 2014

Re: “Important Victoria ranking overlooked,” letter, Oct. 15, and “Leadership needed in sewage issue,” Oct. 14.

The Campbell River letter-writer’s view that Victoria is the “Poop Capital of Canada” is precisely the sort of uninformed sentiment that propelled the Capital Regional District into the current sewage impasse.

It is pointless comparing Campbell River apples with Victoria oranges. The strong tides flooding past Campbell River in Discovery Passage lead directly into an amorphous tidal point, whereas north and south tides around Vancouver Island meet in the scenic Desolation Sound area, where sea water, and any sewage in it, can sit undisturbed for months. We should also disregard interference by the governor of Washington state — the measured toxic runoff from industrial sources in Puget Sound dwarfs the negligible pollution counts found off Victoria.

A more valid comparison might be the City of San Diego, a much larger community, which uses a similar sewage system to that currently employed by Victoria, involving screening and long outfalls into the ocean. San Diego’s system has been given specific approval by U.S. health authorities.

Whether or not the San Diego approach is appropriate for Victoria, what our civic leaders must do is follow the sort of courageous, open-minded and scientific approach to the issue recommended by former CRD medical officer Shaun Peck in his commentary.

We must at all costs prevent uninformed “Mr. Floatie” sentiment from stampeding the CRD into another poorly planned and very expensive exercise leading nowhere.

Terrence Milne