Another charge laid against BC and Greater Vancouver

Media Release: December 14, 2006

Groups seek sewage plant upgrades for Iona in Richmond

VANCOUVER, BC – Today environmentalists laid a charge against both the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) and Province of British Columbia over toxic sewage discharged by the Iona sewage treatment plant in Richmond, BC. Environmental investigator Douglas Chapman laid the charge before a Justice of the Peace in Richmond Provincial Court.

“My investigation shows that Iona sewage frequently fails toxicity tests designed to protect fish, and that the GVRD and the Province are fully aware of these toxic discharges,” said Chapman.

Working with Georgia Strait Alliance, T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation and the United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union – CAW, Sierra Legal and Mr. Chapman launched a similar private prosecution against the same accused in August, over the Lions Gate sewage treatment plant in West Vancouver. In October, the North Vancouver Provincial Court ruled that there was enough evidence against the accused for the Lions Gate private prosecution to proceed.

Sierra Legal Staff Lawyer Lara Tessaro said, “We believe the evidence strongly suggests that the GVRD and the Province are violating the Fisheries Act by permitting toxic sewage discharges at Iona.”

The environmental groups and commercial fishermen are demanding the GVRD immediately upgrade the Iona sewage treatment plant to secondary treatment standards. Of the five GVRD sewage treatment plants, Lions Gate (West Vancouver) and Iona (Richmond) are the only ones still using primary treatment. Primary treatment is environmentally inadequate, allowing an excess of harmful substances as well as chemicals to enter the marine environment.

“Fraser River wild salmon runs are facing numerous threats, yet the GVRD continues to pump out toxic sewage right near the river’s mouth,” said David Lane, Executive Director of T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation. “The GVRD must take immediate steps to upgrade Iona to secondary treatment or better in order to protect salmon and the people who rely on them.”

“The GVRD’s own monitoring of the Iona sewage outfall has also revealed that PCBs and heavy metals often exceed sediment quality guidelines designed to protect marine animals,” said Christianne Wilhelmson, of the Georgia Strait Alliance. “Every year that the GVRD delays implementing advanced sewage treatment at Iona, it increases the risk of contamination of our local waters.”

A Provincial Court Judge must confirm the charge, at a later hearing, for the private prosecution to proceed. This hearing is expected to occur in the New Year.

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