"While many Victorians may not be aware or may not agree, the current method of disposal of our liquid waste is highly effective (environmentally and economically), and has not been shown in several studies to produce any significant measurable effects on the environment."

 

Pride versus Shame:

 

Argument:

BC residents and Victorians in particular feel ashamed that one of their major cities operates below third-world standards. A Citizen Survey conducted by the CRD in 2003 showed sewage treatment is the most important project in the mind of the public. A second, unpublished poll conducted by the CRD in 2004 showed majority support among Victorians for moving ahead with sewage treatment. The world is coming to visit in 2010, and Victoria need not take the gold medal in pollution.

Counter argument:

Victorians can be proud that their regional government has built a natural sewage treatment system that fully meets Triple Bottom Line criteria - social, economic and environmental. Why should Victorians kow tow to the uninformed opinions of outsiders who know little about our unique marine environment of Juan de Fuca Strait?

Analysis

There is much to be proud of in our careful monitoring and research of the marine environment that has supported our current system. Other cities are no doubt envious of Victoria, not only because of our unique marine geography that permits our relatively simple and cost-effective approach, but for our continuing initiatives in our "best practices" monitoring and source controls programs.

Shame and embarrassment about our present sewage treatment system are words used often by organizations seeking to exploit natural concerns for our environment, even to the extent that some politicians have been parroting these same words. However, that is not a sound reason to discard our satisfactory sewage treatment system in favour of an unknown leap into an embarrassing morass of financial burdens, with no measurable improvements in our environment. That would be shameful, indeed!

What has been missing is enough public awareness of the effectiveness of the current deep sea outfalls. Currently the Victoria Core Area sewage (which is really 99.93% water and very little actual solids), is discharged from two deep ocean outfalls more than a kilometer from the shore, after first passing through 6 mm screens. There are no “Floaties”. At the end of the outfalls the effluent passes through diffusers that are 200 meters long and 60 meters (200 feet) below the surface of the ocean. 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. But there is no evidence that it represents a public health risk – based on a comprehensive study of potential human exposure.

While many Victorians may not be aware or may not agree, the current method of disposal of our liquid waste is highly effective (environmentally and economically), and has not been shown in several studies to produce any significant measurable effects on the environment. There is evidence of metals and other chemicals in the ocean sediments that may have arisen from many sources, including Victoria’s long historical practice of dumping solid waste (garbage) from barges into the ocean, shipwrecks (a coal barge sunk of Brotchie Ledge) and from other sources, including storm drains, and migrating harbor pollution.

"The terms “dumping” and “raw” unfairly characterize the engineered solution that has worked for 30 years for the natural treatment of Victoria’s sewage."

 

Is Victoria dumping raw sewage?

 

Argument:

Victoria dumps 129 Million liters of raw sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca each day (Victoria Times Colonist - web site- http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/features/sewage/index.html)

Counter argument:

Victoria does not dump its sewage - the sewage effluent is screened and discharged through two deep ocean outfalls into the marine waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The terms “dump” and “raw” unfairly characterize this effective, engineered approach that has enabled the natural disposal of Victoria’s sewage effluent for the past 30 years and in this specific marine environment, is considered as effective as primary or even secondary treatment of sewage.

Analysis:

The word “dumping” has many meanings but is a generally a negative term. Included in definitions are the North American slang term “take a dump”. The term “raw sewage” is used by engineers to describe the sewage effluent that is collected from households, industry and business by a sewerage system prior to any treatments or disposal.

The Victoria core area sewage is 99.93 per cent water and has very little actual solids. It is discharged from two deep ocean outfalls more than a kilometre from the shore, after first passing through six millimetre screens (screening since 1989). There are no "floaties."

Recent figures obtained from the CRD indicate 66,000 cubic meters or 66 Mega Liters from MacCaulay and 40,000 cubic meters or 40 Mega Litres from the Clover point are discharged through the deep sea outfalls daily. This totals 106 Million liters/ day – not 129 Million liters.

At the end of the outfalls, the effluent passes through diffusers that are 200 metres long and 60 metres below the surface of the ocean. Most of the year, the effluent plume is dispersed well below sea level by the ocean currents. In the winter months, the effluent plume, diluted by 1,600 times before it reaches the surface, surfaces only 4.8 per cent of the time at the Macaulay outfall and 1.7 per cent at Clover Point.

Occasional bacterial tests have detected this diluted plume but there is no evidence that it represents a public health risk -- based on a comprehensive study of potential human exposure. While many Victorians, as well as those living in the rest of Canada or in Washington State, might not be aware, the current method of disposal of the liquid waste is highly effective, both environmentally and economically, and has not been shown in several studies to produce any significant measurable effects on the environment. There is evidence of metals and other chemicals in the nearby ocean sediments that can be attributed to any of several sources, including Victoria's long historical practice of dumping garbage from barges into the ocean in this area, shipwrecks (a coal barge sank off Brotchie Ledge) and from other sources, including storm drains, and migrating harbour sediment contamination.

The terms “dumping” and “raw” unfairly characterize the engineered solution that has worked for 30 years for the natural treatment of Victoria’s sewage.

"There is no credible evidence that any significant quantities of sewage from Victoria’s long outfalls can enter the Strait of Georgia or Puget Sound by natural oceanographic processes. Virtually all sewage (dissolved effluent) from Victoria’s long outfalls is carried out to the open Pacific by the prevailing residual estuarine current."

Transport of Sewage from Victoria's outfalls

 

Argument: Contrary to what we’ve been told, the currents near the outfalls do not carry the sewage out into the Pacific. Rather, 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 and Puget Sound.

Counter-Argument: Ocean currents in eastern Juan de Fuca Strait consist of tidal, storm driven (See : Flux into the Strait of Georgia ) and estuarine components. Superimposed on the tidal and storm driven current components are the more persistent estuarine currents driven by the hydraulic head of the Fraser River as it enters the Strait of Georgia near Vancouver resulting in a net flow to the Pacific

Analysis: Flood tide currents cannot transport Victoria sewage effluent more than a few nautical miles up Haro Strait toward the Strait of Georgia and ebb tide currents flow in the opposite direction out towards Race Rocks. The net effect of the tidal movement component within the daily (25 hour) tidal cycle is close to zero. The estuarine (or residual) current is estimated to consistently flow at rates of 10 to 20 cm/sec and occasionally reaches maximums of 40 cm/sec, carrying virtually all dissolved sewage effluent out into the Pacific.

Conclusions: There is no credible evidence that any significant quantities of sewage from Victoria’s long outfalls can enter the Strait of Georgia or Puget Sound by natural oceanographic processes. Virtually all sewage (dissolved effluent) from Victoria’s long outfalls is carried out to the open Pacific by the prevailing residual estuarine current.

The great volume of fresh water from all the rivers flowing into the Georgia/Puget basin is what drives this residual current. The possibility of minute quantities of dissolved effluent from Victoria entering the Strait of Georgia or Puget Sound through tidal mixing and refluxing processes is as unlikely as effluent discharged from the Annacis Island treatment plant near the mouth of the Fraser River migrating upstream to beyond Chilliwack. This same residual current is also responsible for moving relatively large amounts of sewage (dissolved effluent) from Puget Sound into the southern Strait of Georgia and then out through Haro and Juan de Fuca Straits, past Victoria. A model study prepared for the BC/Washington Marine Science Panel in 1994 by Seattle Oceanographer E.D. Cokelet indicated that dissolved effluent (sewage) concentrations in the waters off Victoria originated primarily from Vancouver (100 ppm or 52.1%), Seattle (83 ppm or 43.2%) with less than 5% originating from Victoria (9 ppm). If sewage proves to be a problem in our waters (it hasn’t to date), then maybe we should look seriously at where most of it is coming from.