More on the Victoria Sewage Debate – Comment on Times Colonist

The propaganda campaign continues from the people in Victoria that want to stop the idea of doing better sewage treatment. For those not current on this problem, Victoria is the only major metropolitan area in the entire Salish Sea that is not treating their sewage, but dumping approx. 82 Million liters of raw sewage a day, into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. There have been numerous letters from noted scientists, politicians, citizen activists, and average people, demanding a change to this and the building of a sewage treatment plant. This has been going on for decades, as the problem worsens.

Today, the Times Colonist, published a letter from a former District Medical Health Officer (89-95), Dr. Shaun Peck, who claimed “many studies have shown that this practice has minimal impact on the marine environment and the plume cannot be detected 400 meters (1312 feet) from the end of the outfalls).”

A quick search of Youtube comes up with a video made by a diver, showing the accumulated sewage sediment on the seabed and marine life 5 kms (16000 feet) away from the McCauley Point outflow.  It hardly looks like healthy normal marine sediment you would expect in areas not near an outfall.  The diver has over 35 years of experience diving this area, as he discusses in the narrative. While not a scientific sampling, the narrative history, along with the science that has been discussed by numerous PhD level scientist who have come out in agreement with a new treatment plant, points to an ongoing history, told by numbers and by visual evidence of those who have dived the area, make a story that is hard to ignore.

Additionally, many samples checking for coliform bacteria up to 10 kms from the outfalls are showing numbers vastly higher than safe levels.

The YouTube Video by diver James Skwarok

Additionally, let’s review more facts of today, not 1991 (which Dr. Peck relies on).

  • Environment Canada has closed 60 square kilometers around the outfalls to all shellfish harvest;
  • The plume from the outfalls hits the water surface under various conditions, which raises concerns for humans who are engaging in primary contact recreation in these areas (wind and kite surfers)
  • Toxicity tests show that Victoria’s sewage is toxic to rainbow trout fry, water fleas, blue mussel larvae, and oyster larvae;
  • Nineteen chemicals found in the sewage are  found on the seafloor and exceed  the Contaminated Sites Regulation. For any one exceedances a site is considered to be sufficiently contaminated to be designated as a contaminated site;
  • Twenty-eight chemicals found in Victoria’s sewage are in concentrations that exceed water quality guidelines for the protection of fish and aquatic life, some exceed the guidelines by nearly 85 times;
  • Toxicity tests at Macaulay Point outfall indicated exposure to sediments from this location resulted in significantly reduced survival or growth of polychaete worms and survival and normal development of blue mussel larvae; and
  • No studies have been conducted in the vicinity of the two outfalls to evaluate the effects of pharmaceuticals and personal care products on aquatic organisms or aquatic-dependent wildlife.
  • (all from http://www.victoriasewagealliance.org/index_files/FactsVictoriaSewageAlliance.htm)

And to clarify for Dr. Peck, as it is  stated at the   Victoria Sewage Alliance web site, “dilution does not get rid of what’s in sewage (organics, pathogens like hepatitis, heavy metals or chemicals) ”

Dr. Peck refers to a book from 1991 called the “Victoria’s Sewage Circus” as some kind of scientific treatise on the subject, ‘providing evidence of the …effectiveness” of the system, but the book, which is available on the Internet for free today, is a lightly written attack on anyone claiming to believe that the then current system of outfall is not adequate. It uses a lot of science that goes back many decades previous to the 1991 publishing of the book, and using this as some kind of reference guide, is using seriously outdated and non specific data. For example, there are no actual pointers to specific scientific peer review capable literature in the book, and there is no bibliography or source reference listing to find the original science that the author is referring to. Much of the book reads not much different than a generalist wanting to convince the unconvinced, rather than putting real scientific data on the specifics of the Victoria outfalls in front of the reader. It adds nothing new to the debate. The book can be found here: http://www.members.shaw.ca/sewagecircus/index.html 

Dr. Peck goes on to claim,” We do not have industrial runoff such as that which occurs from the Duwamish Canal and other sources in Puget Sound.” again without referring to any study or the particular runoff  that would prove that  claim. To be clear, Victoria most definitely has industrial runoff, if nothing else waste from dry cleaners, that may use PERC in their facilities, for example.  It may not have a Boeing plant, or some such industry particular to Seattle, but the Dr. needs to clarify what chemicals that Seattle has flowing into the Dumawish today, not 50 years ago, that Victoria doesn’t have.

So when you read things like Dr. Peck or run into friends in Victoria that don’t support the building of the sewage treatment plant (yes, I’ve met young people who claim to be very environmentally aware and who think that the current situation is just fine), please point them to facts that can help them understand the problem, and why people like Dr. Peck, for reasons that are really not clear, joins a contingent that is still in denial about something that many other scientists have clarified. This deflecting  of Victoria’s lack of sewage treatment by saying that those of us in Washington State have not solved the problem any better, quoting from  People For Puget Sound (of which I was a board member for a number of years) to prove a case that is not even being made (the issue being debated  isn’t comparing Duwamish industrial  water run off with Victoria sewage) is pure propaganda. We in Washington state recognize the problems and are working on solving them, even when they likely include having to fix Victoria’s fecal coliform and heavy metals, etc. issues that end up in our waters. It’s time we stop pretending that what comes out Victoria’s outflows somehow doesn’t effect us here. For one thing, the fish that pass through that sewage don’t just stay there. We likely eat them. So we should be celebrated for taking on the hard work, instead of ridiculed.

If any of you need more convincing that Dr. Peck is either purposely or not, feeding the propaganda machine for not spending the money to build a better treatment system, and allowing Victoria to join the rest of the cities around the Salish Sea that have recognized the threat of untreated sewage in total to the health of the Sea, then I direct you to the numerous letters of support, along with more facts and studies, at the web site run by the Victoria Sewage Alliance, http://www.victoriasewagealliance.org/index.htm

The article in the Times Colonist by Dr. Peck is here.

http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/op-ed/comment-crd-should-seek-waiver-of-federal-sewage-rules-1.2038020

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