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Letters Dec. 7, 2021: Revive Island's passenger rail service; sunflowers could help deal with biosolids

Island rail corridor a permanent solution The recent closure of a section of the Malahat highway underscores the need for more effective transportation planning.
Weeds grow on the unused E&N rail line near Victoria. A letter-writer suggests a well-planned rail corridor on the Island, with a bidirectional route and realistic schedule, would be a solution to the Malahat bottleneck. TIMES COLONIST

Island rail corridor a permanent solution

The recent closure of a section of the Malahat highway underscores the need for more effective transportation planning.

As a recent commentary suggested, more frequent and affordable bus transit can address the problem — I would argue as an immediate, near-term solution. Of course when the Malahat is closed, buses will be as stymied as individual vehicles.

Our Island is already experiencing explosive population growth and the relocation of residents from the expensive capital region to communities to the north, with no sign this will let up.

As another commentary noted, timber companies are keen to profit from development. We need a more permanent solution to highway volume, congestion, collisions, injuries and deaths. At the same time, we must lower our carbon footprint to mitigate climate change.

We need provincial and federal governments to support a well-planned rail corridor on the Island, with a bidirectional route and realistic schedule.

Roll this out in increments, beginning with a line from the West Shore to Vic West, expanding over time to serve the “bedroom” communities of the South Island, and possibly points north.

This service would meet the needs of commuters, tourists and freight services. Riders can read, work, enjoy scenery and move around. I don’t read on a bus due to motion sickness, but I’ve used rail commute time to great benefit.

I would like the provincial government to grasp this nettle, access federal infrastructure funds and make it happen. As for Rails to Trails, rails and trails would serve the needs of a much more diverse population.

Margaux Finlayson

CRD has a plan for biosolids management

Re: “New approach needed to our broken biosolids plan,” commentary, Dec. 2.

The Mount Work Coalition’s commentary on biosolids management suggested the Capital Regional District’s short-term plan for the beneficial use of this material is broken.

Our new wastewater treatment system came online in December 2020. The commissioning and optimization of all components is anticipated to extend until January 2023. The Residuals Treatment Facility has been consistently producing Class A biosolids since summer 2021 and much of this material is displacing non-renewable fuel at Lafarge’s cement plant as intended.

Class A biosolids that cannot be delivered to Lafarge are used at Hartland Landfill as both a nutrient to support tree growth in reforested areas and as part of an engineered cover to reduce methane emissions from landfilled waste.

The benefits of these applications are numerous and meet the regulatory standards required by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.

As part of the CRD’s commitment to transparency, staff issue regular updates on the wastewater treatment commissioning process at Monthly biosolids reports — including detailed information on production volumes, end uses and compliance with provincial standards — are also available at this link.

Now that the short-term biosolids management plan is operating, CRD staff have started developing a long-term management plan for this material that will include public consultation on the full spectrum of options permitted by provincial regulations.

Colin Plant, board chair
Capital Regional District

Sunflowers could help the environment

Re: “New approach to broken biosolids plan,” commentary, Dec. 2.

The plan to ship Victoria’s biosolids to Vancouver to the Lafarge cement plant in Richmond for disposing of the byproduct of the sewage treatment system is wasteful from adding to B.C.’s “greenhouse” gas emissions.

The diesel trucks for the transport of the “Class A” biosolids emit pollution, as does the ferry or tug plus waste-laden barge to cross the strait.

If we do spread these biosolids that contain “contaminants of concern” upon the landfill then we could plant sunflowers to absorb these “forever chemicals” from the biosolids. The plants would require disposal afterward, but the soil would be remediated.

Sunflowers are called phytoremediators and can take up the chemicals to negate their toxicity. This was done in High River, Alta., in the 2013 flooding event and could be duplicated in the flood-ravaged farmlands of Abbotsford and Chilliwack to extract the many toxins that will be present long after the flood waters subside.

There are more cost-effective ways to clean up after ourselves if we use examples of means from other regions of our province, or country.

Rafe Sunshine

Cyclists can avoid leaves, blind cannot avoid cycles

I read the commentary by Graeme McCreath with regard to the danger blind persons face in the bike lanes separating bus stops from the sidewalks in Victoria. McCreath was “bang on” in his description of the discrimination against blind persons by Victoria.

Then I read the letter from a cyclist complaining about the leaves in the bike lanes in Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay being a great danger for cyclists.

I agree that they undoubtedly are, and homeowners should be fined for doing so.

However, the cyclists can avoid the leaves, and also slow down when they see the piles.

The blind people do not have that defence while crossing over the bike lanes to a bus stop.

I find it ironic that the single largest danger to the blind persons are the cyclists who use the lanes.

David Morton
East Sooke

They were warned, but they did nothing

In the past couple of decades the B.C. government has commissioned at least three studies regarding potential flooding in the Fraser Valley.

All three studies said that the dike that broke was too low at the exact location where it was overwhelmed. None of the governments did anything about their own studies saying that the dike needed to be raised at that location.

And now British Columbians and Canadians are left footing the bill of the massive flooding damage.

Why do we not blame the inaction of these leaders?

If a plumber told me three times that my water tank was ready to explode and I did nothing about it and it broke and flooded my basement, can I blame mother nature for that?

Mark Henry

Build on the rock, not the sand

An early building code recommended in Part 1, Article 1, Sentence 1:

“Build on the rock, not the sand.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

So we have known for 2,000 years that building on a flood plain is not wise.

“And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

As we go forward we should heed what we have known for millennia. Or, we should do what Winnipeg has done.

The Red River floodway, for example, can divert the path of the Red River around the urban area of Winnipeg.

During flooding episodes, the channel can divert up to 4,000 cubic metres (140,000 cubic feet) of water per second before it reaches the Winnipeg area.

The floodway carries this outflow around the city before rejoining the main stem of the Red River in a less-populated area of the floodplain. Since its construction in 1968, the Red River floodway has saved Manitoba more than $32 billion in flood damage.

Fred Mallach

Horrified by the return of cruise ships

Cruise ships have often been described as “floating cities,” and as environmental groups have pointed out that they are just as polluting, if not more.

A passenger’s carbon footprint triples in size when taking a cruise and the emissions produced can contribute to serious health issues. On top of the pollution caused by their exhaust fumes, cruise ships have been caught discarding trash, fuel and sewage directly into the ocean.

They are also reportedly destroying coral reefs in the Caribbean.

Now that COP26 has ended and the warnings are dire for the future of humanity, I would assume that “wiser heads will prevail” from politicians and that these floating monstrosities will be banned for good.

As someone who also does shoreline cleanups regularly, I am horrified to hear this news.

Anne Forbes

We gain millions from the cruise industry

I have read so many paranoiac letters in the Times Colonist from people who think that the estimated 700,000 visitors who will arrive on cruise ships in Victoria this summer are somehow a virus-like threat to our community or are an attack on the climate of the world.

That is total nonsense. Every person who boards a cruise ship anywhere in the world today has to be double vaccinated and pass a COVID test before they are allowed on board. Cruise ship passengers are probably the most vaccinated and most screened people on earth.

Victoria stands to gain hundreds of millions of dollars in economic prosperity by promoting and accommodating the international cruise ship industry. We should be counting our blessings and be thankful that we live in such a wonderful place that is attracting people from all over the world.

Paul Arnold

Emergency calls can be handled in other ways

B.C.’s 911 system is moving to a new protocol that will allow operators to hang up on non-priority calls. Also, operators will now be able to disconnect from the line after transferring callers to B.C. Emergency Health Services.

There is obviously a problem with the 911 system with calls being put on hold for many minutes or disregarded. The province should look elsewhere to see how other jurisdictions deal with emergency calls.

As an example, in Paris there are different emergency numbers depending on the need of the caller.

A caller in any emergency may call 112, or the person may instead choose to call 15 for medical emergencies, or 17 for police assistance, of 18 for the fire department. A hard-of-hearing caller may also call 114.

This system saves time for the caller and for the first responders, and it could save lives. There are obviously better systems around that would permit quicker access to first responders in any emergency.

Roger Cyr

We are a long way from the worst death toll

Re: “Dealing with COVID in the long term,” editorial, Dec. 3.

The editorial concluded with “If we act now with all the force we can muster, we may still avoid the worst. But there should be no doubt about this. The worst could make past epidemics look tame by comparison.”

Coincidentally, I am reading The English and Their History by Robert Tombs. In his description of the Black Death, arriving in England in 1348 and lasting through the next year or so, he says: “In England, as across Europe, perhaps half the population died.”

Previous to the plague, England also suffered from famine. Tombs says: “The population had been reduced by famine and plague from about 6 million in 1300 to about 2.5 million in 1350.”

Think of that. Canada’s population now, according to Google, is 38.01 million. A comparable loss to COVID (vis à vis the 50 per cent Tombs said died from the plague) would be around 17 million people.

Again according to Google, Canada’s deaths from COVID are at 29,767.

We have a long way to go before getting to “the worst.”

That is not to minimize any loss of life. I grieve every time an aged family member or friend passes, for whatever reason. I know they can’t last, but I feel the pain of their loss every time.

However, I think we need a little perspective. We have had very little loss compared with some other countries, and compared with history we are not even in the same league.

It is time to stop the fear-mongering and hand-wringing.

Pastor Don Johnson
Grace Baptist Church of Victoria (Independent)

Army reserves to the rescue

It was gratifying to see personnel of the Canadian Armed Forces being credited for their work in mitigating flood damage in the Greater Victoria area.

It would have been more so if they had been identified as members of local army reserve units, and specifically 5th B.C. Field Regiment, the Canadian Scottish, 39 Service Battalion, 11 Field Ambulance and 39 Signals Regiment who, with their forebears, have volunteered their time to face down local and national emergencies for more than a century.

The federal government has withdrawn all its full-time army units from this province, so when the call comes to “send the army” to fight fires, floods, or insurgents in Afghanistan, it is these folks who leave their comfortable civilian existence to do much of the heavy lifting. Many have full-time jobs and family commitments and may even be your neighbours.

Their compensation has improved in recent years, but it’s not extensive. Most will not admit it, but loyalty to the nation and their units provide the bulk of their motivation.

Recognition by the community as represented by its media is also important because if these part-time soldiers were not there, neither would we be.

John Appleby

A great idea, but not enough to go around

A recent letter suggested that part of the solution to a lack of general practitioners would be nurse practitioners.

That would be great, if there were more than three or four of them in all of Greater Victoria. And, as I discovered, most of them work in hospitals and are fully booked.

The suggestion I received more than a month ago from the office of our provincial advocate for seniors pointed me in that direction. The practitioners were all fully booked for weeks and not taking online appointment requests.

So, you can forget that fantasy solution.

My prescriptions will be gone in less than two weeks. So I’ll just roll over and die. God knows I’m not the same as our queue-jumping premier.

T. Lorne Pedneault-Peasland


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