Transcript of Sewage Treatment Presentation to Capital Regional District Board
Thank you. My name is Dr. Gerald Graham, and I am a strong supporter of sewage treatment. An independent review of the CRD’s current treatment plan, as proposed in this Motion, would undo years of effort and cast doubt on the region’s ability to meet the 2020 federal secondary treatment deadline. Failure to meet that deadline has serious legal implications. Trashing the plan also jeopardises half a billion dollars in infrastructure grants.
Environment Canada can’t be “lobbied” to relax the new requirements for the CRD. You’ve been told that no exemptions or extensions are possible. And to suggest that there is an “open marine waters” clause in the rules which will exempt the CRD from treatment is fanciful: the CRD’s wastewater application already describes the receiving environment as “open marine waters”, with no impact on the region’s ultimate “high risk” classification.
The CRD could have been prosecuted years ago for pumping raw, untreated sewage into the sea, in violation of the federal Fisheries Act. If it becomes clear that the 2020 wastewater effluent deadline will not be met, what is to prevent the authorities from taking you to court before then?
Opponents of treatment euphemistically describe our current disposal practice as “natural, marine-based sewage treatment”, in contrast to the proposed “artificial, land-based sewage treatment”, as if some higher power had laid down our two outfall pipes and all that human waste just sort of found its way into them. Let’s get real: you either treat your sewage on land, or you dispose of it into the sea. We choose the latter, Dickensian-style appraoch.
In my 2006 submission to the SETAC Victoria sewage panel, I cited a possible link between contaminants in our sewage and contaminants in local killer whales- the world’s most contaminated marine mammals. Toxins found in orcas, such as PCBs, are also found in Victoria’s sewage, much of which flows into Haro Strait- critical habitat for the orcas.
A recent court case confirmed that under the Species at Risk Act Ottawa must act to protect critical habitat for endangered orcas- a listed species. Admittedly, raw sewage is not the only threat to the orcas, or even the main one. But, as the SETAC report states “…the argument can be made that, where we can control bioaccumulative compounds (such as PCBs) through practical means, we should do so” (Pp. 38, 39). This echoes a point I made in my submission to the panel.
A precautionary approach means treating our sewage now- not in 2030 or 2040, by which time the orcas, a veritable icon of the Pacific Northwest and big contributor to the local economy, could be extinct.
For all these reasons I urge you to reject the Motion at hand.