Wednesday
Aug242016

Sewage group’s mandate impossibly broad 

LAWRIE MCFARLANE
TIMES COLONIST
AUGUST 14, 2016

The expert panel appointed to oversee Victoria’s wastewater project is
expected to issue its final recommendations a month from today.
Specifically, a report will be sent to the Capital Regional District
on Sept. 14, and the CRD board must make a decision almost
immediately.

While it’s in everyone’s interest to see the panel succeed, the omens
are hardly encouraging. There are two basic rules for managing a
project like this, and the province — which imposed the new panel —
has broken both of them.

Rule 1: If you want experts to come up with recommendations on a
hideously complex matter, and do it within four months, narrow the
focus, don’t widen it.

Yet the panel’s mandate (co-designed by the province) is open-ended in
the extreme, and, in several places, conflicted. The members are to
design “a sewage treatment and resource-recovery system that is
innovative, achievable and optimizes benefits — economic, social and
environmental (including climate-change mitigation) — for the long
term.” For a team with limited time lines, that’s a hopelessly broad
task.

Next, they are to be “responsive to community values and concerns.”
And those would be — what, exactly? There is zero consensus here. The
municipalities can’t agree. The scientists can’t agree. Public-health
officials rate the whole project a massive waste of money.

Then again, they are to “minimize costs to residents and businesses.”
Good idea. But how does that square with optimizing social and
environmental benefits?

Finally, the business case is to include either “enhanced secondary,
or tertiary treatment.” Well, which is it? This isn’t a minor detail.
It’s like telling the pilot of a 747 bound for Vancouver that if he
prefers San Francisco, that’ll be fine.

In short, the panel’s mandate gives an obligatory nod to every
politically correct notion making the rounds, while laying out goals
that are fundamentally at odds with each other.

Now you could say, well, that simply gives the members plenty of
choice. But it could also leave some CRD board members in an
impossible position.

In effect, they must accommodate recommendations that might represent
political suicide. What if the panel recommends the original choice —
one plant at McLoughlin Point? Can Esquimalt’s Mayor Barb Desjardins
go along with that?

Which brings us to the second rule: Do not force junior levels of
government to own a decision that will ruin them, especially if it can
be taken out of their hands.

You do them no favour.

But the province broke that one as well. After the CRD spent years
footling around under the direction of the environment minister (who
scuttled an earlier plan due to Esquimalt’s veto), the province
stepped in and imposed an expert panel.

But lessons learned is not a concept here. So the government recreated
its original mistake by insisting that the final decision still had to
be taken by the CRD. The panel’s recommendations were to be considered
merely advisory.

So how does this work? Let’s say the panel tries to avoid an Esquimalt
veto by scattering numerous plants around the region. That, of course,
will force up costs, possibly by several hundred million dollars.

And the CRD is supposed to pass this along to local taxpayers as a
decision they personally own? But what if the directors say no?

The federal and provincial funding deadlines are almost upon us.
They’re out of time.

The proper solution was to have the panel report to the province, and
let the decision rest there. After all, this entire fiasco was forced
on the capital region by senior levels of government with far deeper
pockets.

There are smart people serving on the panel. But as the saying goes,
you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. And in this case,
there’s more sow than silk.

Wednesday
Aug242016

A balanced article from a journalist with a biology degree

Dirty Water and Good Intentions: The Murky Case for Victoria Sewage Treatment

 

Scientific argument for $1-billion project is far from watertight.

By Michael Ruffolo Today | TheTyee.ca

Michael Ruffolo is a freelance journalist and student at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism who is completing a practicum at The Tyee. He has a biology degree from the University of Western Ontario. Follow him on Twitter @mike_ruffolo.

 

http://thetyee.ca/News/2016/08/24/Victoria-Sewage-Treatment/?utm_source=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=240816

Thursday
Aug042016

Victoria Project Board Presentation August 4th 2016

Members of the project board - thank you for the opportunity to speak to you to-day.

I am Dr Shaun Peck. In the past I was the Medical Officer of Health for the CRD.

Speaking to-day as a taxpaying resident of Victoria - I implore the panel - in their report and business case that is being prepared - that you put a high priority on the interests of the taxpayer (Municipal, Provincial and Federal).

I should preface my remarks by stating that my message is similar to that presented by James Skwarok to-day. He used to be known as “Mr Floatie” when he dressed up as a turd and was an advocate for increased sewage treatment.

My plea to the panel is to recommend the least cost option.  I will put aside the fact that I have repeatedly reminded the CRD that land based sewage treatment is not needed.  

If treatment plants are to be constructed for Victoria - the McLoughlin point plan, including a second plant to process the sludge at Hartland, that was reliably costed is the best plan. This plan makes the most sense for the taxpayer.  Any other plan will have extra costs.

The McLoughlin Point plan included secondary treatment and will meet the Federal Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations (WSER) and will be in compliance with the 2006 Provincial order.

I have been informed, by what I consider a reliable source, that should the three companies that bid on the McLoughlin point plan not see that contract finalised and awarded that they may collectively pursue court action. This would be to recover the several million dollars that they incurred in responding to the original request for proposals for the construction of that plant. Another potential cost to the taxpayer.

In the Federal Regulations it is clear that a “one size fits all” approach was taken and there did not appear to have been any consideration of the unique situation here where Victoria’s sewage (which is 99.97% water) is effectively treated naturally by the marine environment. 

There has been an amazing amount of confusion around this issue created by decisions of the CRD’s Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee and Board.

It appears that instead of representing the taxpayer’s interests several Board members have been coopted by or lobbied by professional Engineering companies who have an interest in obtaining contracts or they are driven by a personal ideology. This has resulted many suggested technologies and in alternative sites being considered – Clover Point, Rock Bay etc.

There has been public sentiment for water reclamation which can be achieved with tertiary treatment. However it has been reported by staff and consultants this will result in greater costs. Furthermore there is no evidence for need, based on availability of water from the greater Victoria water supply area for the next 50 years.

Elected Officials have for more than 20 years been influenced by rhetoric from Washington State that has tried to shame Victoria in implementing increased land based sewage treatment.  A recent article in Focus Magazine “Washington's phony sewage war with Victoria” exposed the absurdity of this rhetoric. http://focusonline.ca/node/1083

If in a “Business Case” there is consideration of a cost-benefit it may be difficult to demonstrate a measurable benefit to the Marine Environment.

However I hope that in the proposed business case there is some attention paid to any cost-benefit or lack thereof.  The present practice with the two deep sea outfalls has been shown to have a minimal effect on the ocean floor 60 meters below the surface around the outfalls.  You must consider though that building land based sewage treatment plants will have an effect on the land (terrestrial) and global (e.g. greenhouse gas production) environments.

In conclusion – if you are going to create a business case for building land based sewage treatment plants please consider the least cost option for taxpayers. The lack of benefit and potential harm to the overall environment and the lack of credible science supporting the need, reinforces that your choice should be the least cost option.

Thank you,

Dr Shaun Peck

Public Health Consultant. www.rstv.ca

Medical Health Officer for the Capital Region 1989-1995.  

Monday
Jul182016

Washington's phony sewage war with Victoria

Washington's phony sewage war with Victoria- David Broadland. 

Published in Focus magazine May 2016 See: http://focusonline.ca/node/1083

The concluding paragraph.

"The lesson for Victoria?

The opinions of Washington legislators about the Capital Region’s sewage treatment system are highly suspect. When challenged for details, they can’t provide them. The legislators’ uninformed portrayal of Victoria’s treatment system as “backward” is little more than an attempt to deflect attention away from their own inaction as Puget Sound deteriorates.
Victoria’s political leaders shouldn’t take Washington politicians seriously on this issue. Instead, those tasked with deciding how to spend that “billion dollars” need to take their responsibility more seriously. They need to get outside the Where-to-put-it? box they’ve been stuck in since 2009 and allow themselves to be guided by local marine and human health scientists who have precise knowledge of the environmental and health impacts of the current system.
In Washington, scientists say stormwater runoff is the most pressing threat to marine waters. Unless that’s solved, conditions in the Salish Sea will continue to deteriorate. In Victoria, scientists are saying additional sewage treatment here—and in Vancouver—will provide little or no environmental benefit. One initiative that would provide a benefit has been identified. Victoria’s stormwater runoff is likely as toxic as Seattle’s, albeit on a smaller scale. The deterioration of near-shore Victoria-area waters that local citizens have blamed on the deep-water outfalls is more likely due to deposition of the “incredible gunk” from storm drains that disgusted the diver interviewed in Poisonous Waters. That’s a problem that everyone agrees needs to be fixed.

The lesson for Victoria?
The opinions of Washington legislators about the Capital Region’s sewage treatment system are highly suspect. When challenged for details, they can’t provide them. The legislators’ uninformed portrayal of Victoria’s treatment system as “backward” is little more than an attempt to deflect attention away from their own inaction as Puget Sound deteriorates.
Victoria’s political leaders shouldn’t take Washington politicians seriously on this issue. Instead, those tasked with deciding how to spend that “billion dollars” need to take their responsibility more seriously. They need to get outside the Where-to-put-it? box they’ve been stuck in since 2009 and allow themselves to be guided by local marine and human health scientists who have precise knowledge of the environmental and health impacts of the current system.
In Washington, scientists say stormwater runoff is the most pressing threat to marine waters. Unless that’s solved, conditions in the Salish Sea will continue to deteriorate. In Victoria, scientists are saying additional sewage treatment here—and in Vancouver—will provide little or no environmental benefit. One initiative that would provide a benefit has been identified. Victoria’s stormwater runoff is likely as toxic as Seattle’s, albeit on a smaller scale. The deterioration of near-shore Victoria-area waters that local citizens have blamed on the deep-water outfalls is more likely due to deposition of the “incredible gunk” from storm drains that disgusted the diver interviewed in Poisonous Waters. That’s a problem that everyone agrees needs to be fixed."

 

Saturday
Jul092016

Victoria's sewage fiasco and the politics of contamination  

Victoria's sewage fiasco and the politics of contamination By David Broadland, Focus Magazine July 2016.

http://focusonline.ca/node/1117

"After a year-long search by the CRD for an alternative to McLoughlin Point, the elected directors suddenly found themselves trapped between two unpopular ideas: McLoughlin and Rock Bay. They tried to find their way out of that fix by proposing two plants located immediately upstream of each of the existing outfalls. That move, in turn, prompted a “Save Clover Point” neighbourhood revolt and the project was on the edge of either complete collapse or a return to McLoughlin Point. The Province quickly moved in and threatened the elected officials with the loss of the aforementioned $482.5 million in provincial and federal funding unless critical decisions about the project were handed over to an appointed board. The elected directors, faced with being held responsible for losing $482.5 million and knowing that agreement amongst them was unlikely, capitulated. The appointed board will now decide what form of treatment to use and where a plant—or plants—will be located. 

The chair of that board, lawyer Jane Bird, is reputed to be a close personal friend of Gordon Campbell. During the time Campbell has been Canadian High Commissioner to the UK in London, Bird received an appointment with Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Development as an “Attaché.” An Attaché is a person on the staff of an ambassador with a specific area of responsibility. Under Campbell, Bird served as “Project Manager” for the $18 million redecoration of Canada House in London. Incidently, the other main decision-maker involved on that project, besides Campbell, was Noel Best, who is a principal of Stantec’s Vancouver office.

Now Bird is in control of Victoria’s sewage treatment project, a project Campbell ordered and one in which Stantec’s costly involvement has been controversial. The connections between Bird, Stantec and Campbell will do little to assuage the concern in Victoria that taxpayers here are being forced to underwrite debts incurred by Campbell during Vancouver’s Olympic party.

A lot of people think the new board will choose secondary treatment at McLoughlin Point. No matter. At some point, whatever they propose has to come back to the CRD’s elected directors for their approval. With the information that has now emerged about the dubious origins of Penner’s 2006 order, it’s hard to see how those directors would believe they have the moral authority to approve a project without first seeking electors’ consent in a referendum."