The Salish Sea Needs Tertiary Wastewater Treatment, Without Delay

Did you know Metro Vancouver’s largest wastewater treatment plant, Iona, discharges undertreated sewage directly into the Salish Sea?

Federal regulations call for the Iona Island Wastewater Plant to be upgraded by 2030. However, we learned in July 2021 that the upgrade plan is experiencing cost overruns, a four-year delay to 2034, and a treatment level that is more indicative of secondary treatment. These issues did not crop up overnight, however, we were surprised to learn about them – out of the blue – as we’ve been engaging with Metro Vancouver for years, advocating for tertiary level 2 treatment.

There has been a lack of transparency with how, when and what Metro Vancouver has been leading the public to believe.

It’s time for Metro Vancouver to be clear with the public and to consult and engage with the Musqueam First Nation, upon whose territory the plant (and its upgrade) is located. If tertiary treatment is not implemented by 2030, harmful effluent will continue to be discharged directly into the mouth of the Fraser River. The longer Metro Vancouver waits, the greater the negative impacts there will be on local communities, the marine environment and its ecosystems.

What we know

In late June 2020, the Greater Vancouver Sewerage and Drainage District Board approved the preliminary design of the Plant’s upgrade, which includes plans for tertiary treatment methods. Tertiary treatment is the best option for Metro Vancouver communities because it will prevent the largest quantity of harmful toxins like nitrogen, ammonia, metals and microplastics from polluting the Salish Sea.