Victoria Sewage Backgrounder

May 13, 2005

  • Mid 1960 – Victoria’s beaches are covered with feces as multiple outfalls discharge sewage directly at shoreline. Decision made to combine outfalls and pump 300 meters offshore;
  • Late 1960’s – Victoria makes the decision to install long outfall pipes (1000 meters) instead of building a treatment plant;
  • Early 1970’s – Victoria builds long outfall pipes;
  • Mid 1970’s – Victoria installs screens after sewage white fish are found on the shores of San Juan Island, USA;
  • Late 1980’s – Hartland landfill leachate is diverted to sewer lines after the leachate killed 2 creeks, 1 lake and 1 inlet;
  • Early 1990’s – study concludes that CRD can create a sewer use bylaw that allows landfill leachate into sewers. Same study says the leachate must be treated if it was pumped directly into the ocean;
  • 1992 – CRD referendum on sewage treatment. Three options/taxpayer cost per year: source control/$4, primary/$231 or secondary/$336. Treatment cost estimates were questionably high and effectiveness of source control was the promoted beyond ability to deliver. Still treatment captured 43% of votes;
  • Early 1993 – Boycott launched against Victoria’s tourism sector in response to the no treatment vote. Conferences cancelled at Victoria Conference Center and hotel bookings lost;
  • 1993 – BC Premier Harcourt & Washington Governor Lowry sign agreement with Victoria to install primary treatment by 2002 and secondary by 2008;
  • 1993 – CRD writes BC minister committing to install secondary treatment within 25 years;
  • 2000 – CRD submits a 25 year Liquid Waste Management Plan (LWMP), removing the commitment to treatment just prior to submitting;
  • 2002 – Environment Canada study shows health risks and environmental risk from Victoria’s raw sewage discharge;
  • 2003 – BC Government approves the CRD’s LWMP with no plan for treatment. This essentially kills the 1993 agreement with Washington State;
  • 2004 – Markovic study shows extensive heavy metal contamination from Victoria’s outfalls.


  • 120 million liters of raw sewage a day pumped into ocean at entrance to Victoria harbour;
  • A 40 sq. km. area around the outfalls is closed to all shellfish harvest;
  • The southern resident killer whale, which frequents the area, is listed as endangered;
  • Sewage plume reaches surface at least 8 months of year;
  • Oil and grease reaches the surface most days;
  • Surface Fecal Coliform levels at times exceed recreational standards by over 1400% (2900CFU/100ml);
  • Fecal Coliform contamination (an indicator of sewage pollution) extends 2.5 km from the outfall;
  • There is a potential health risk to recreational users such as windsurfers, kayakers and sports fishers who use the waters near the outfalls;
  • Sediment quality environmental protection guidelines are exceeded daily on the seabed around the outfalls;
  • The tide carries the surface sewage plume towards the Esquimalt Lagoon shoreline;
  • The CRD’s source control program continues with limited capacity to remove pathogens, heavy metals and many toxic chemicals from the waste stream.

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