Friday, June 13, 2014

“When You Go To Victoria, Don’t Flush”

Mr. Floatie (PHOTO: Chad Hipolito)
Two years ago in these pages we heralded what we thought was the light at the end of Victoria’s sewer discharge pipe after the Canadian government, the province of British Columbia and the Capital Regional District put $782 million down for a long-awaited sewage treatment system. Alas, we were wrong. [“Victoria Sewage: Now Can We Flush?”]

Those who follow this never-ending story were perhaps not surprised when the regional district township of Esquimalt adamantly refused to house the planned sewage treatment plant, thereby driving planners back to new site acquisition and additional costs of hundreds of millions above the $782 million already committed. [“Victoria region's sewage bill could rise by $100 million]

Now, enter Washington Governor Jay Inslee into the fray with a letter to BC Premier Christy Clark saying the sewage issue poses health and economic issues, threatens intergovernmental relations, and should not be pushed out to 2020. BC Environment Minister Mary Polak has responded that, “We have made it clear that sewage treatment will happen; this is not up for debate" and that regional district taxpayers could face up to $500 million more in costs if they can’t decide where a treatment plant will go. [“Victoria sewage fouls Washington-BC relationship”]

Resurgence of the Victoria sewage treatment issue has brought out many of the same arguments aired throughout Puget Sound in the ‘80s when local jurisdictions faced major capital costs to install secondary sewage treatment. [The Victoria regional district filters but does not treat its 34-million gallon-a-day discharge.] Like Victoria today, the arguments then against sewage treatment were based on the benign ‘flushing’ action of our estuarine waters and the unreasonable high cost of treatment to be passed on to resident and business rate payers. Same old, same old.

My Canadian colleagues and “Mr. Floatie” find the Victoria sewage issue deplorable but I’m not sure welcome the huffing-and-puffing self-righteousness from this side of the border. [Mr. Floatie retired two years ago when it seemed like a sewage treatment plant would be built but has reportedly come out of retirement for a “second movement.”] After all, those on this side of the Salish Sea have their hands full with stormwater, toxic bays and estuaries, toxic fish and shellfish, sewer overflows, closed shellfish beds, ocean acidification, oil and coal trains, and depleted salmon and forage fish habitats.

I’m sure every time the Victoria sewage treatment issue arises, our neighbors feel chagrin, that frustration followed by shame. No need to pile on. Twenty years is such a long time to suffer not only polluted shorelines but awful puns and being the butt of jokes. May you move smoothly forward.


July 10, 1994/ Seattle Times
VICTORIA, B.C. - A U.S. environmental group has some advice for tourists: If you go to Victoria, don't flush.

A brochure produced by the Seattle-based People for Puget Sound praises Victoria's "unique, old-world charm" but says the charm is dulled by the dumping of raw sewage into the Georgia and Juan de Fuca straits.

The 17,000-member group says that until the city has primary sewage treatment, it will remain the only West Coast city between Anchorage, Alaska, and Tijuana, Mexico, that dumps raw sewage into the ocean.

The group also notes Vancouver dumps and spills untreated sewage into the Fraser River and the Strait of Georgia and sewage is spilled every year by U.S. treatment plants into Puget Sound.

[“Victoria A Great Place To Visit, But Not To Flush?”]

‘Nuff said.

--Mike Sato

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