August 23, 2015

Sewage treatment: Victoria’s constipated political process needs fixing
Wastewater initiatives good news: Jensen
Westside Sewage Committee meets 24 August
CRD should seek waiver of federal sewage rules

Mayor looking forward to retiring Mr. Floatie (Mayor Helps)
- Proper planning a priority for sewage treatment project (Johnson)
Centralized treatment facility not the best option (Regier)
Sewage treatment: Victoria’s constipated political process needs fixing

Despite decades of ridicule and protest, Victoria continues the foul practice of treating the Puget Sound like a toilet bowl. What will it take, Oh Canada, to bring your sewage treatment into the 20th century?

Seattle Times editorial board
Seattle Times
August 18, 2015

EVERY day, Victoria, B.C., and its suburbs flush 21 million gallons of raw sewage into the Strait of Georgia and Strait of Juan de Fuca. To put that in perspective, it’s seven times the volume of the toxic mining spill in the Animas River in Colorado — every day. And as Victoria booms, the flow increases.

This has been Victoria’s foul problem for decades. But years of ridicule and a 1993 tourism boycott didn’t end this neglectful approach to sewage treatment. A turd-shaped mascot named Mr. Floatie (it’s worth Googling) added to the theater of the absurd.

Finally, in 2006, with the Vancouver 2010 Olympics looming, then-Gov. Chris Gregoire applied acute political pressure, and the Canadians finally promised to get their, uh, act together.

A promised sewage-treatment plant was supposed to open in 2016. Then in 2018. Those plans blew up last year when a local zoning change was denied, and the British Columbia government failed to step in, prompting a righteous protest from Gov. Jay Inslee.

Today, the Victoria region is back to square one, with no treatment plant on the horizon. The failure is an embarrassment for stately Victoria, and it undermines the rigorous work to clean up Puget Sound.

King County’s Wastewater Treatment Division Director Pam Elardo resigned in frustration last month from the board of the agency tasked with building the treatment plant. She’d been brought in for her expertise on such things — it took King County, after all, a decade to build its Brightwater treatment facility.

“It appears that construction and operation of a wastewater treatment system is now years, if not decades, away,” Elardo wrote. “I and King County leadership have lost confidence that the current approach will this time be successful.”

A regional effort, led by Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, is now back to the drawing board, looking at new sites, with an analysis due by the end of the year.

Washingtonians have heard this before, not to mention the excuses that the “natural flushing action” in the Pacific waters off Victoria mitigate the hazards of untreated sewage. Victoria can make those arguments with a semi-straight face only because their more conscientious neighbors on both sides of the border invested in these types of facilities decades ago.

It is well past time for Victoria to do the same. If the planning bogs down — again — it is time for Washington to renew a tourism boycott and a return of Mr. Floatie. The San Juan Islands, after all, are too close for comfort to those outfall pipes that treat the Puget Sound like a toilet bowl.

Oh Canada, what will it take?

Victoria sewage timeline

• 1993: Washington state launched a tourism boycott against Victoria because of the region’s lack of formal sewage treatment. State lawmakers forced British Columbia’s premier to enter into an informal agreement with then-Gov. Mike Lowry that Victoria would build primary sewage treatment by 2002 and secondary treatment by 2008.

• 2006: Then-Gov. Chris Gregoire notes Victoria’s broken promises during discussions on 2010 Winter Olympics. B.C. Environment Minister Barry Penner orders the Victoria’s Capital Regional District (the district where Victoria is located) to make good on those promises.

• 2009: Washington supported B.C.’s bid to host the Olympics partly because of the commitment on sewage treatment. Then-Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin said the city’s “reputation has been tarnished by our sewage treatment.”

• 2014: Gov. Jay Inslee and King County Executive Dow Constantine sent a letter to B.C. Premier Christy Clark demanding action. Later that year, the preferred treatment facility site in Esquimalt was rejected in a rezoning dispute. The B.C. government did not intervene, ending the project.

• 2015: King County’s representative resigns from a Capital Regional District board because of “lost confidence” in progress toward a treatment facility. A new siting process begins, but no capital projects are planned.

Source: King County Wastewater Treatment Division
Wastewater initiatives good news: Jensen

Christine van Reeuwyk
Oak Bay News
Aug 20, 2015 3:00 PM

The latest decisions regarding regional wastewater treatment are good news for Oak Bay and the rest of the region, says Mayor Nils Jensen.

The CRD Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee has secured technical support to conduct detailed analysis and engineering work, selected a Technical Oversite Panel and chosen a Fairness and Transparency Advisor this month.

“We share in the sense that this is good for all of the core area liquid waste management communities,” Jensen said. “This is just a general positive move for all seven communities.”

Fairness and Transparency Advisor Kim Cholette is to ensure the process is fair, transparent, impartial and objective.

Urban Systems, partnering with Carollo Associates, was awarded the contract to conduct the Feasibility and Costing Analysis for the CRD’s Core Area Liquid Waste Management Plan Wastewater Treatment System.

“It’s a good thing for a regional solution to have these steps taken. It shows that there’s forward momentum and it bodes well for us coming to a resolution and a decision within the time required,” Jensen said.

The most looming deadline is for federal funding; siting and technology decisions must be submitted for approval of the end of March.

“The Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee is still confident we’ll be able to make that deadline,” Jensen said.

Jensen said indications are that the provincial portion of the funding offers bit of leeway.

“There is more flexibility on their part and we don’t have the same hard and fast deadlines with them. But we realize we do have to co-ordinate the federal and provincial monies,” he said.

Both have requirements to amend the liquid waste management plan that the funding was previously based on.

Urban Systems and Carollo Associates are tasked with providing detailed costing and technical analysis for distributed options that account for all the flows in the core area communities.

They will also cost a range of potential wastewater treatment systems at Rock Bay from centralized to sub-regional.

“[These steps are] important for two reasons: one, they will give the public a level of comfort that there are outside eyes examining the process to ensure they’re efficient and fair; two, the process of costing is moving forward,” he said.

“One of the critical elements I’ve heard from residents is ‘how much is it going to cost?’ For most people in the core area communities, that’s what will drive most people’s views of what the best plan is.”

Fall will see another round of consultations and public outreach expected to be similar to the public briefings and online surveys put out earlier this year.
Westside Sewage Committee meets 24 August

Westside sewage committee meetings Monday 24 August, 11:30am-1:30pm, at Esquimalt Town Hall. Agenda + reports:

Agenda includes letter from Esquimalt Nation Chief Andy Thomas stating that they want the sewage plant at Rock Bay on land they own, with second choice being location on reserve. Also, staff report "Next steps..." recommends awarding Urban Systems a sole source contract in order to meet tight deadlines.
CRD should seek waiver of federal sewage rules

AUGUST 22, 2015

In 1991, engineer J.E. Dew-Jones published his book Victoria’s Sewage Circus, providing the evidence of how effective Victoria’s two deep-sea outfalls are in enabling its sewage to be treated naturally by the unique marine environment.

The engineered outfalls are more than one kilometre from the shoreline and have 200-metre diffusers. They are also 60 metres below the ocean surface. Many studies by the Capital Regional District have shown that this practice has a minimal impact on the marine environment and the plume cannot be detected 400 metres from the end of the outfalls.

The sewage circus continues today, 24 years later. The CRD’s eastside and westside committees have been examining many sites for possible land-based sewage treatment plants. However, it appears the Liquid Waste Management Committee does not have a clear goal of what it is trying to achieve.

What are the goals of the project? One hopes the goal is to build sufficient land-based treatment to satisfy the regulators, but at the least cost possible. However, it appears from the public consultations that they might be going to build a “Cadillac” system with all the bells and whistles.

Voices from Washington state (“Get moving on sewage,” guest editorial, Aug. 20) have from time to time tried to shame Victoria for not building land-based treatment plants. It is suggested that Victoria’s sewage is contaminating Puget Sound or the San Juan Islands, which is absurd and not supported by the facts. They should clean up their own backyard.

According to People for Puget Sound, 549 streams, rivers and lakes across the Puget Sound region are impaired by poor water quality. Harbour seals in Puget Sound are seven times more contaminated with the persistent toxic chemicals known as PCBs than those living in Canada’s Strait of Georgia, which adjoins Puget Sound. More than six million kilograms of toxic chemicals enter Puget Sound waters annually. On an average day, it’s estimated that 60,000 kilograms of toxic chemicals — including petroleum, copper, lead, zinc and PCBs — enter the waters there.

Due to 20th-century industrial contamination, the lower eight kilometres of the Duwamish Canal in Seattle, which drains into Puget Sound, was declared a Superfund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The contaminants include PCBs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, mercury and phthalates.

Hood Canal is a fjord off the Puget Sound where hypoxia, a low-oxygen condition, occurs due to oxygen-absorbing pollutants and lack of tidal flushing.

The CRD has, on the other hand, a world-class, highly effective sewage-source control program that eliminates many chemicals of concern and is making improvements to prevent storm water from contaminating the beaches. We do not have industrial runoff such as that which occurs from the Duwamish Canal and other sources in Puget Sound.

As the sewage circus continues and the CRD tries to come up with a plan to satisfy the regulators, they should consider challenging the Canadian Federal Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations, such as by a judicial review or an appeal to the Federal Court of the scientific basis for taking a “one size fits all” approach in the regulations. This approach was successful in San Diego under U.S. laws.

The waiver would be based on the many studies showing the current practice of discharging the screened sewage through two deep-sea outfalls has a minimal impact on Victoria’s unique marine environment. In spite of the rhetoric and misinformation from Washington state, this should be pursued, if it appears that the current planning results in an unaffordable burden on taxpayers for no clear benefit to the overall environment — land, marine and global.

Dr. Shaun Peck was the Capital Regional District’s medical health officer from 1989 to 1995.

Mayor looking forward to retiring Mr. Floatie (Mayor Helps)

AUGUST 20, 2015 03:35 PM

Re: “Get moving on sewage,” guest editorial, Aug. 20.

As the mayor of Victoria, I am as concerned as our Seattle neighbours that, in the 21st century, Victoria still flushes its sewage into the ocean. When I joined the tourism delegation to Seattle this spring, we heard loud and clear that we need to “just get on with it.”

And we are. We’ve talked enough and we don’t have more decades to waste. It’s time for action.

As the mayor of the capital city and as someone with a reputation for getting things done, I was appointed as the chair of the sewage committee in May. Since then, I’ve been working hard with my colleagues to come up with and implement a new plan so that we can upgrade our current sewage treatment from primary to secondary, or better. I am committed to getting a sewage treatment plant built. I’ve been sending monthly briefings to U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman as well as James Hill, the Canadian consul general in Seattle, to advise on our progress.

We’re motivated by funding deadlines. We need to have a plan in place by March 31, 2016. We’re also motivated to become a responsible and sustainable contributor to the rich Pacific Northwest region. We want to welcome our neighbours from Seattle to our clean shores and to enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds all of us.

Finally, I look forward to the day when we can hold a retirement party for Mr. Floatie.

Mayor Lisa Helps
Proper planning a priority for sewage treatment project (Johnson)

Saanich News 
Aug 18, 2015 at 8:00 AM

As Capital Regional District citizens we’ve inadequately expressed displeasure with our elected leaders for their failure to resolve a perceived sewage disposal problem.

Recently, and in conjunction with his early termination in the now cancelled CRD’s sewage treatment plan, it was confirmed project manager Albert Sweetman will receive a half-million dollar early termination payment. Sweetnam may by some be deemed a failed major-project manager. That would be an unjustified assessment of a proven professional who has a demonstrated history in mining and nuclear projects.

It is evident that the CRD sewage disposal concern conflates two closely related but distinct issues. One: the aim for comprehensive treatment of all waste water to the tertiary stage, and two: the (normally) preceding confirmation of a science-based requirement for such complete treatment.

With the termination of Sweetnam and the majority of his planning staff, now is the logical time to figuratively wipe the slate clean and this time start with a verification of need.

There is science-based evidence that the receipt of screened sewage offshore in the Strait of Juan de Fuca is a uniquely non-contaminating system. This reality is extensively documented by professionally qualified citizens at Responsible Sewage Treatment Victoria. It’s noted that Dr. Shaun Peck has verified that all water (including the Fraser) that flows into the Georgia/Puget basin drive the residual current that carries Victoria’s dissolved effluent out to the open Pacific.

Let’s realize we collectively face a double threat. First, we could all again be embarrassed with the Lazarus-like return of Mr. Floatie, the excrement-costumed activist who champions greater waste-water treatment. More importantly, even with the science-based confirmation of our currently effective system, cancellation by the CRD of its aspirational goal for more expensive sewage treatment may not happen.

If, in their collective wisdom, our elected representatives decide our long-term (political) interests lie in upping our sewage-treatment game, let’s hope the recent costly project-management errors are not repeated. With Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps recently noting that “project staff were hired before the project was 100 per cent sewn up,” there is a glimmer of light on the project planning horizon.

Let’s hope Mayor Helps is referring to the realization she and her elected CRD colleagues now understand the need to define (along a critical path) task sequencing and approval levels for a major project. The CRD’s own professional engineers certainly have the training and background (and the project-management software) needed to initiate and track early-stage CRD sewage project planning initiatives.

If the political decision is to opt for more sewage treatment, let’s hope our CRD elected leaders follow Mayor Helps in her determination to not proceed (with expensive early-stage commitments) until we have a project that’s 100 per cent solid.

Ron Johnson
Centralized treatment facility not the best option (Regier)

Saanich News 
Aug 20, 2015 at 8:00 AM

The CRD Eastside Select Committee’s recent online survey based on some 860 votes suggested a 73 per cent approval rating for a sub-regional centralized sewage treatment plant in the Rock Bay area; 45 per cent of respondents were from Victoria, 19 per cent from Saanich and 17 per cent from Oak Bay.

This committee and CRD’s Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee seem to have taken these results literally and are now proposing centralized sewage treatment plant options in the Rock Bay area for further analysis.

Did those respondents and CRD directors really know or fully understand what they were voting for? Probably not, based on my closer review of the comments posted on the Ethelo website, the committee discussions and the consultant’s concept plan.

Two sites are considered for the treatment facilities: the Victoria Public Works Yard (to be relocated?) west of Bridge Street or the BC Hydro-Transport Canada parcels (still under remediation?) west of Government Street in the Burnside neighbourhood. Several large new pumping stations, over 13 km of pipelines and a new long deep outfall are included.

A pump station at Clover Point must lift the raw sewage over 20 metres of high ground to get to Rock Bay along the suggested route; another pump station at Rock Bay pumps the same volume plus more from the Westside after treatment back over the same high ground to Clover Point. Those two large-diameter twin pipes are to be constructed through established residential and commercial districts along busy streets crowded with underground utilities and known bedrock conditions.

During wet weather periods with high inflow and infiltration, sewage from the Westside receiving only primary treatment in the proposed plant is blended with sewage receiving secondary or perhaps tertiary treatment, before it is flushed out to sea through the new offshore outfall. The harmful substances in the primary effluent would re-contaminate the blended flow so the secondary/tertiary treatment processing is essentially wasted in terms of protecting the marine environment.

The Rock Bay area could be suitable for a small distributed tertiary treatment facility using sewage flows generated in the surrounding areas.  Reclaimed water and recovered heat from a smaller facility would better match potential demands in the surrounding industrial and commercial districts for revenue generation. The benefits of such a system would seem far superior to those centralized options currently envisaged.

But wait. Could this CRD decision possibly be a brilliant new strategy to finally, once and for all, confirm through detailed independent analysis the complete folly and final death-knell of a centralized treatment facility that encompasses multiple kilometres of new unnecessary pipelines, inefficient to-and-fro pumping stations, inadequate treatment of liquids and residual solids, limited resource recovery and wasteful water disposal to the sea?

Oscar Regier