Comment: You can help stop unnecessary sewage treatment

Does Victoria really "dump raw sewage into the ocean?" And is the remedy for the "problem" worth the environmental damage it will cause?

The "dumping raw sewage" sound bite, spread far and wide as the refrain for abandoning our current sewage-treatment system, is well on its way to misleading taxpayers into spending a billion dollars or more. It overlooks once again the fact that Victoria's sewage effluent is finely screened and composed of more than 99.9 per cent water.

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The basics of the wastewater engineering plan were confirmed Friday by Capital Regional District's interim project manager, Jack Hull. The implications are frightening.

A one-metre diameter force main (pressurized pipeline) must be laid along Dallas Road, through Beacon Hill Park and through the James Bay neighbourhood to the planned tunnel at Ogden Point.

Laying the pipe would require excavating a trench at least 3.5 metres deep. To prevent such a deep trench from collapsing on the workers, Worksafe B.C. requires that if it cannot be shored, it must be 12 metres wide at the surface.

Such an excavation through James Bay's neighbourhoods and narrow side streets would disrupt vehicle and pedestrian traffic and would impact existing water mains, sewers, drains and power and communications cables.

The pipeline would then be blasted through rock outcroppings at the Ogden Point cruise-ship terminal, affecting nearby properties and tourism.

To accommodate the pipeline between Ogden Point and McLoughlin Point, further blasting would be required during construction of the onekilometrelong, three-metre-diameter lighted and ventilated tunnel under the entrance to Victoria Harbour.

Then, at McLoughlin Point, the combined flows from Clover and McCaulay points would be reduced to sludge and with the aid of five pumping stations, the sludge would be pumped uphill 17.7 kilometres to the Hartland landfill (200 metres elevation) to be dried and buried, thus shortening the life of the landfill.

A parallel main back to McLoughlin Point would return the treated effluent to the plant. Both mains would follow Victoria View Road, Lampson Street and Tillicum Road, and would cross the Gorge and then follow Tillicum, Interurban, West Saanich and Hartland roads.

This madness will take place in an active earthquake zone.

Concentrated sewage sludge contains contaminants that are no less noxious than oil. Spills originating from the sewage force main from Clover Point, the tunnel under the harbour or the sludge force main to Hartland Road could well become environmental catastrophes.

Marine scientists are particularly concerned about the pipeline at the entrance to Victoria Harbour, where a spill could have serious consequences. Whereas currently treated effluent is safely discharged far offshore into rapid ocean currents, currents at the mouth of the harbour would push untreated effluent spills into the harbour and against its shores.

Do we really want the equivalent of another Northern Gateway pipeline in our neighbourhoods?

Neither of the senior levels of government will pay anything toward cost overruns. Inevitable overruns and the capital and operating costs will be the sole responsibility of water ratepayers, including homeowners, renters, public schools, hospitals and the provincial government buildings, including the legislature.

Why are we abandoning our existing highly effective practice of natural marine treatment, in which substantial public money has already been invested to finely screen the effluent and to implement sourcecontrol programs to prevent toxic chemicals from entering the ocean, in order to incur these severe environmental risks at much higher cost?

There has been, and will be, no referendum on the matter.

This unnecessary and expensive sewage project can be stopped if enough citizens put co-ordinated pressure on politicians.

Former federal environment minister David Anderson and several University of Victoria marine scientists will discuss the politics and the science this evening at 7: 30 p.m. at St. Ann's Academy Auditorium, 835 Humboldt St. (rear entrance).

Elizabeth Woodworth is a board member of the Association for Responsible and Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment (ARESST.ca).

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