Health risks to mariners and other water users


Argument: Onshore sewage treatment plants will reduce the health risks to mariners and other water users. Sewage carrying faecal coliform bacteria rises to the ocean surface for up to eight months/year. Wind surfers, leisure boats, eco-tourist, fishing, and other vessels routinely travel through these polluted surface waters, exposing the public to third-world health risks.

Counter-Argument: Mariners, sailors, wind-surfers, scuba divers, other water users are not harmed or undergo any significant health risks from Victoria’s natural sewage treatment system primarily because they are not exposed to the plume.

Analysis: Most of the year, the effluent plume is dispersed well below sea level. In the winter months, the diluted effluent plume (diluted by 1600 times before it reaches the surface) surfaces only 4.8% of the time at the Macaulay outfall and 1.7% at Clover point. Occasional bacterial tests have detected this diluted plume. There is no evidence that this represents a public health risk – based on a comprehensive study of potential human exposure. (Reference: “Qualitative Risk Assessment of Marine-Based Puplic activities in the vicinity of McCauley Point and Clover Point wastewater outfalls, CRD, BC – Archipelago Marine Research Ltd September 2002 and SETAC report July 12th 2006).

Pollution only occurs when some measure of significant harm to humans or marine biota has been observed. No such harm has been observed to date nor is likely to occur in the foreseeable future. (Reference: “Potential Environmental Effects of the Macaulay and Clover Point Outfalls and review of the wastewater and marine environment program” Golder Associates December 2005 and SETAC report July 12th 2006)

Conclusions/Advocacy: The Straits of Georgia and Juan de Fuca meet in the waters off southern Vancouver Island, creating a wonderful diversity of marine life. Diving in Victoria ranks amongst the world's best . At Ogden Point, divers continuously plunge off the breakwater - every day of the year. Off Ten Mile Point you will see a spectacular display of swimming scallops scurrying off in all directions, like a school of false teeth. There is excellent diving from Race Rocks. The West Wall is considered to be the top dive site in the Victoria area, where divers claim to have seen the most marine life anywhere. It is host to a combination of protected-water sea life, and outer west coast wildlife .

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When Race Rocks (less than 20 km –one strong ebb tide – downstream from Victoria’s deep sea outfalls) was declared Canada’s first underwater marine protected area, Divers from the National Geographic declared the waters the most pristine that they had seen anywhere in North America. Dare we suggest that it is because of increased nutrient levels from Victoria Sewage? No. Victoria sewage (although beneficial to marine biota) contributes minute quantities to nutrient levels compared to nutrients from other sources. In 1990, Race Rocks was designated Canada’s first Marine Protected Area.

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