Groups urging BC to clarify its stand on CRD sewage

Media Release: February 8, 2006

VICTORIA, BC – Sierra Legal Defence Fund, the Georgia Strait Alliance and T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation are expressing frustration over a mixed response recently received from the BC Ministry of Environment in regards to their request from last November. The groups had asked the province to formally recognize that the Capital Regional District (CRD) has created contaminated sites on the sea floor around the Clover and Macaulay sewage outfalls.

The Ministry of Environment in its response appears to acknowledge contamination of the sea floor and indicates it would be investigating the matter further. However, the MOE’s letter goes on to state that it is policy to not apply the Province’s contaminated rules to an active source of pollution and implies that application of the contaminated site rules to the CRD would only be considered if the use of the outfalls were to cease.

“On one hand, it’s a positive step that the province seems willing to acknowledge that the CRD’s effluent could be an ‘active source’ of pollution,” said Christianne Wilhelmson, Program Coordinator with the Georgia Strait Alliance. “On the other hand, we are extremely concerned that it is unwilling to use the contaminated sites rules to stop this pollution. Applying its contaminated site rules only after the CRD stops the use of the sewage outfall is illogical. Existing regulations must be used to protect the environment today.”

In their submission the groups used the CRD’s own scientific data to show it has polluted to the sea floor. Many contaminants were found to be at levels in excess of the province’s standards under the BC Contaminated Sites Regulations. The groups requested that the Director of Waste Management designate the sites as contaminated under BC law, and order the CRD to put in advanced sewage treatment to stop the pollution from getting worse.

“Normally, before any industry receives a permit to pollute, it must prove it is applying the best technology available to minimize pollution,” said John Werring, Sierra Legal Staff Scientist. “Right now, the CRD is using the absolute minimum standard of sewage treatment that exists and, as a result, it is polluting the environment. The government should be holding the CRD to a much higher standard, especially with the 2010 Olympics coming to BC. The world is watching.”

Jim McIsaac, Clean Water Director for the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation said, “We hope that the Ministry of Environment reconsiders how it is applying the law in this case and applies pressure on the CRD to take immediate steps to limit the extent of its pollution. The first step to do that is to stop the active source by requiring the CRD to install secondary or better sewage treatment immediately.”

The MOE says it should have a report by the end of March on its findings into the environmental groups’ assertions. The groups are calling on the government to make that report public when it is delivered.

Information on the initial request.