Ottawa Sends Victoria an Early Xmas Gift

Funding for Sewage Treatment

December 13, 2004

VICTORIA, BC – Environment Canada has responded to a formal petition filed by Sierra Legal Defence Fund on behalf of local conservation groups regarding Victoria sewage with good news: federal money is available to upgrade Victoria’s complete lack of sewage treatment.

Environment Canada stated in their response that approximately $200 million in federal funding has been dedicated to BC through Western Diversification to fund upgrades of sewage treatment to prevent discharge of know pollutants into the marine environment.

But the federal government also stated clearly that while funds have been allocated for infrastructure improvement, municipalities must take the initiative. “The program is application-driven, there is no mechanism to distribute funds for a specific community project, unless the community applies for the project” stated Environment Canada in their response.

“I would happily help them with the paperwork if it would stop the CRD from dumping one million litres of untreated sewage into the ocean every day,” said Peter Ronald of the Georgia Strait Alliance.

“It is great news that funding is there. The obvious question now is: ‘where is the political will?’” added Jim McIsaac of the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation.

The petition filed in April of this year alleged that the Government of Canada is failing to adequately regulate the release of toxic substances such as PCBs from sewage systems in many of Canada’s coastal municipalities.

“Despite repeated promises of action from the Government of Canada, sewage treatment systems in cities such as Victoria and Vancouver are still inadequate and continue to release massive amounts of sewage laced with toxic chemicals into the marine environment each and every day,” said Sierra Legal lawyer Margot Venton. “Now that we know that funding is available , let’s get on with it.”

The submission, filed under the federal Auditor General Act, highlights the federal government’s ongoing failure to effectively control the discharge of sewage contaminated with persistent organic pollutants, and in particular PCBs, into the marine environment. Evidence accompanying the submission suggests that this type of pollution is contributing to contamination of the marine environment and marine life, including species listed under the federal Species at Risk Act such as BC’s Southern Resident Killer Whales .

Technology to control and virtually eliminate persistent organic pollutants such as PCBs from sewage systems is widely used throughout Canada and the submission documents how, by simply upgrading to secondary sewage treatment, up to 99% of all PCBs could be removed.