BC Ignored Evidence in Approving Victoria’s Sewage Plan

Media Release: April 13, 2005

VICTORIA, BC – Documents recently obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request show that Joyce Murray, then BC Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection (WLAP) ignored overwhelming evidence on the harmful effects of dumping raw sewage into the ocean when she approved Victoria’s Liquid Waste Management Plan (LWMP). The approved LWMP allows Victoria to continue pumping over 40 billion litres a year of raw sewage into waters just off Victoria harbour for at least the next 25 years.

The evidence presented to the Minister included:

  1. That the sewage plume from the outfalls reaches the surface eight months of the year.
  2. Oil and grease reaches the surface most days.
  3. Fecal Coliform contamination (an indicator of sewage pollution) extends 2.5 km from the outfall.
  4. Surface Fecal Coliform levels at times exceed recreational standards by over 1400% (2900CFU/100ml).
  5. There is a potential health risk to recreational users such as windsurfers, kayakers and sports fishers who use the waters near the outfalls.
  6. Seabirds feed on the raw sewage.
  7. The tide carried the surface sewage plume towards the Royal Roads University (northwest) shoreline.
  8. Sediment quality environmental protection guidelines are exceeded daily on the seabed around the outfalls.
  9. A 40 sq km area around the outfalls is closed to all shellfish harvest due to sewage pollution.
  10. A large area of the seabed around the outfalls is covered in rotting sewage.
  11. The CRD’s source control program has limited capacity to remove many toxic contaminants from the waste stream.
  12. Treatment is not only more effective in reducing contaminants, it is effective immediately and will remove a wide array of contaminants not targeted under source control.
  13. Dilution is not an acceptable management tool – WLAP Staff.

In approving the LWMP in March of 2003, Murray not only ignored the above evidence, she also ignored federal laws, repeated requests and direction by provincial and federal ministries and regulatory agencies for the CRD to provide plans and schedules for the provision of advanced sewage treatment, and she ignored local support for treatment.

“The province has ignored years of evidence showing harm to the marine ecosystem,” says Jim McIsaac of the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation. “They have bought the CRD’s ridiculous argument that Victoria has the only benign sewage in the world. The province must put its foot down, refuse to accept any further nonsense from the CRD and insist that they move ahead with sewage treatment immediately.”

“The citizens of Victoria should be very concerned that the CRD has known all along about the impacts dumping raw sewage was having on local waters”,” says Christianne Wilhelmson of the Georgia Strait Alliance. “They cannot be allowed to continue manipulating information and putting pressure on other levels of government in order to maintain the status quo at all costs.”

The CRD pumps over 120 million litres a day of raw sewage into local waters. This sewage contains pathogens, heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants like PBDEs (flame retardants) and PCBs, many are known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors and reproductive toxins.

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