Greater Vancouver, BC, face trial over Lions Gate sewage pollution

Federal government to tell court on August 16 if it will back prosecution

July 17, 2007

NORTH VANCOUVER, BC – Provincial Court trial dates have been set for June 2008 to hear a charge that effluent from the Lions Gate sewage treatment plant in West Vancouver is polluting coastal waters and violating federal environmental law.

The charge against the GVRD and the Province is based on the Lions Gate plant’s repeated failures of toxicity tests, documented in numerous reports submitted by the GVRD to the Province. The charge was originally laid in August 2006 by Douglas Chapman, an environmental investigator and former prosecutor with Ontario’s Ministry of Environment.  Chapman is supported by Georgia Strait Alliance and T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, and represented by lawyers at Sierra Legal.

“We hope the province and the GVRD will act now to upgrade its primary treatment plants to secondary within six years,” said David Lane, Executive Director, T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation.

Lions Gate primary treatment plant discharges over 33 billion litres of sewage effluent each year into coastal waters, via an outfall about 500 metres east of the mouth of the Capilano River.  Primary treatment removes less than 40 percent of the organic matter and does not remove most heavy metals or persistent organic pollutants.  Environmentalists and fishermen are calling for a rapid upgrade to at least secondary treatment for both the Lions Gate plant and the Iona plant in Richmond.

The groups are also calling for the GVRD to look at innovations that will recover resources from the sewage, rather than just focusing on waste disposal.

“Communities around the world, including Victoria, are beginning to see sewage as a resource, not waste, and turning to technology that will lower costs and give back to the community—it’s time for the GVRD and Province to do the same,” says Christianne Wilhelmson of Georgia Strait Alliance.

The GVRD has an opportunity to shorten its upgrade timelines, and to move towards resource recovery, during the review of its five-year Liquid Waste Management Plan this fall.  The current Plan acknowledges that the Lions Gate plant is sub-standard but proposes that upgrades to secondary treatment be delayed until 2030.   Under the current Plan, upgrading Iona’s plant to secondary treatment has been delayed until 2020.

For further information please contact:
David Lane, Executive Director, T. Buck Suzuki Foundation (604) 519-3635, cell: (604) 258-8119
Christianne Wilhelmson, Program Coordinator, Georgia Strait Alliance (604) 633-0530; cell: (604) 862-7579
Lara Tessaro, Staff Lawyer, Sierra Legal (416) 368-7533