Victoria pumps an average of 82 million litres of raw sewage daily into waters just off Victoria’s harbour. It is pumped into our pristine ocean through two one-meter wide pipes 60 and 65 meters under the surface by twin 1000 horsepower motors.
Don't currents in the Strait dilute the sewage rapidly?
Contrary to what we’ve been told, the currents near the outfalls do not carry the sewage out into the Pacific; the net current at the outfall depths is east into Georgia Strait. Further, because currents change direction with the ebb and flow of the tide, a lot of the sewage either stays nearby or flows back into Georgia Strait. Also, dilution does not get rid of what’s in sewage (organics, pathogens like hepatitis, heavy metals or chemicals) and therefore it doesn’t prevent the long-term damage to the environment, or the waste of the energy and mineral resources carried by sewage.
Victoria has concentrated on source control - isn't this enough?
Source control is an important part of keeping our environment healthy, and responsible municipalities both manage source control and treat their sewage. However, many sources acknowledge the limits of source control, here is one comment from the BC Ministry of Environment, " source control has limited capacity to reduce contaminants … Treatment is not only more effective in reducing contaminants, it is effective immediately upon implementation and will remove a wide array of contaminants not targeted under source control."
Isn’t Victoria’s sewage non-industrial so we don’t need treatment?
Most industrialized cities have a sewer use bylaw similar to Victoria’s sewer use bylaw, which ensures all industrial waste is pre-treated before entering the sewers. These bylaws will put industrial city wastewater on a level similar to Victoria’s, however all of these more industrialized cities will then have sewage treatment before discharging into surface water.
science has not proven that raw sewage harms the environment, has it?
Yes it has. In fish toxicity tests on Victoria's sewage, the fish died within 20 minutes. In identical tests on pulp mill effluent, fish routinely survive for more than 96 hours. These are just a few examples of the growing amount of independent scientific data (i.e. not conducted by a government agency biased against sewage treatment) that supports the need for treatment.
Victoria has discharged raw sewage since 1894; why change now?
In 1894, those responsible for Victoria's sewage did what they were first asked to do - get rid of it. In that era industry also discharged it's effluent untreated, but as our understanding of industrial effluent changed, so did society’s tolerance for pollution. We now understand that raw sewage includes many harmful and toxic chemicals, therefore, environmental laws no longer tolerate raw sewage discharges from municipalities.
· 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.
Victoria Sewage Treatment Alliance
Let’s get on with it!