Sewage prosecutions gaining momentum

Judge approves another charge against Greater Vancouver and the Province of BC

March 22, 2007

RICHMOND, BC – A Provincial Court Judge today approved the charge laid against the GVRD and Province of BC for alleged pollution offences at the Iona sewage treatment plant. The charge was laid by environmental investigator Douglas Chapman, who is represented by Sierra Legal and supported by the T-Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, Georgia Strait Alliance and the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union – CAW.

At a court hearing two weeks ago, Judge Chen heard evidence from Mr. Chapman that toxic effluent is being pumped from the Iona plant into the Strait of Georgia. Today, Judge Chen agreed that there is evidence that the Province and the GVRD may be violating the federal Fisheries Act at the Iona sewage plant. The decision sets the stage for this private prosecution to go forward to trial.

“The judge considered my evidence and came to the correct conclusion,” said Douglas Chapman.

Sierra Legal staff lawyer Lara Tessaro said, “We are pleased that our second prosecution against these sewage polluters has been given a judicial green light. We hope the federal government will support our private prosecutions and force these powerful polluters to stop pumping toxic sewage into BC coastal waters.”

In October, a North Vancouver judge approved a similar private prosecution against the GVRD and the Province, over the Lions Gate treatment plant. Both Iona and Lions Gate use only primary treatment methods. Environmentalists and fishermen are calling for a timely, expedited upgrade to nothing less than secondary treatment for both plants.

“By continuing to delay much needed sewage treatment upgrades at Iona, the Province and GVRD are allowing the ongoing pollution of the marine environment,” said Christianne Wilhelmson of Georgia Strait Alliance. “The GVRD is lagging behindthe industrialized worldin its approach to sewage treatment and with 2010 not far away, it’s time for a progressive plan for our sewage, not more delays.”

“The Iona outfall is near the mouth of the Fraser River, home to some of North America’s most significant salmon fisheries” added David Lane of the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation. “The Court’s decision is the first step towards holding accountable those who pollute fish habitat.”