Contaminated sites created by Victoria’s sewage

CRD sampling data reveals high levels of toxics near outfalls

Media Release: November 15, 2005

VICTORIA, BC – Sierra Legal Defence Fund, on behalf of the Georgia Strait Alliance and T Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, made an urgent request today that the Province of British Columbia formally designate the underwater areas surrounding Victoria’s sewage outfalls as contaminated sites. The groups provided new scientific and legal analysis of the Capital Regional District’s own monitoring data, conclusively demonstrating that the areas in the immediate vicinity of the outfalls have levels of toxic chemicals higher than the levels prescribed under both provincial legislation and national guidelines for contaminated sites.

“Contrary to its repeated claims, the CRD’s own data has clearly documented that the dumping of raw sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca is creating contaminated sites,” said Sierra Legal lawyer Margot Venton. “We are simply asking the province to designate those areas as contaminated sites and ensure that the CRD quickly and effectively deals with the associated environmental and health risks.”

The groups examined the CRD’s own benthic sediment chemical monitoring data for the years 2000–2004. The reports sampled for concentrations of heavy metals and toxic organic chemicals found near the Clover Point and Macaulay Point outfalls. After comparing its data with its own sediment quality guidelines, the CRD concluded that the marine environment in the vicinity of the outfalls is not being adversely impacted. However, the environmental groups instead compared the data with the more stringent concentration limits found in Schedule 9 of the BC Contaminated Sites Regulations (CSR).

Of the 29 compounds tested by the CRD, 19 exceeded the CSR limits during 2000-2003 for a “Typical” contaminated site. The exceedances included toxic heavy metals like cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, zinc, and various polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Therefore the seabed in the vicinity of both outfalls meets the definition of a contaminated site.

“Obviously we have some very contaminated sites here,” said Jim McIsaac, Clean Water Director for the T. Buck Environmental Foundation. “The areas are contaminated by not just one chemical but as many as 19, and we increase that contamination every day. It’s time for the region to stop polluting and move forward on secondary treatment.”

Christianne Wilhelmson, Program Coordinator for the Georgia Strait Alliance pointed out, “Secondary treatment can remove up to 93% of all of the contaminants of concern, including heavy metals and PAHs. It is clear that the status quo isn’t working and we need to start planning today for the most effective and appropriate sewage treatment technology for Victoria before the contamination gets any worse.”

Backgrounder on contaminated seabed around Victoria outfalls