Aug 162017

An opportunity for a better approach to sewage treatment?

There is a much less expensive and common sense approach than the current one.  . . .  Truly!

(This posting is under development.   If you have thoughts on it, please let me know.  Thanks!)

My curiosity and activism over sewage treatment began in the 1970’s.   I was young and from a land-locked community that didn’t have a river or ocean for dumping of sewage.  My memory goes as far back as the “honey wagon” that weekly traveled the back alleys where residents put out their “honey pail”.   Pure sewage.  The wagon was pulled by a horse.  I don’t know where it was emptied or how it was cleaned out.

What I couldn’t figure out, years later in Halifax, was why there were so many condoms on the rocks at Point Pleasant Park.  The light started to dawn when, on a beach on a fine summer day, I saw the little kids playing in the water with small, plastic, pastel-coloured “submarines” that looked an awful lot like tampon tubes.   But that didn’t make any sense because I couldn’t imagine that mothers would let their children play with discarded tampon tubes washed up on the beach.   . . .  in the end, and through the years,  I learned a lot about sewage “treatment” that I didn’t really want to know!

The links below work, even if they show that they don’t.

THE STORY TODAY:  Bowser votes on sewage treatment 

From the article:

  • the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) has decided on recommending “marine disposal” over ground disposal for sewage in the village of Bowser.
  • the proposed sewage pipe would extend about 2 kilometres into the Salish Sea (Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and mainland B.C.).
  • RDN Chair Bill Veenhof said the effluent, “will be treated to meet or exceed Canadian federal and provincial standards.”   (My question is always “what specific standards?”  Level 1 sewage treatment is the use of a screen to catch objects such as condoms and plastic tampon tubes that are flushed down toilets, so they don’t go out to sea.  Is that what we’re talking about?  I asked the RDN.  The answer is NO  – – –   read on.)
  • Estimated cost of the proposal for Bowser’s sewage treatment:

The Newspaper reports $10.7 million   But see below, “Reconcile” with the Engineers’ Report.  Capital cost:  $11,272,000 to $11,921,000

The newspaper says:

$4,262,962  wastewater treatment plant  (don’t you love the language – – “waste water”.  But that’s water that we and others eventually “recycle” through our bodies, through drinking it and through plants and animals that we eat.  We don’t get “new” water (think of “acid rain” or “2,4-D rain in southern Alberta, or mercury levels in fish). According to how we use the word,  it seems to me that all water is “waste” water – – it has gone through many different bodies over the centuries.)

$3,877,154 for the collection system

$2,541,395 for “marine outfall”  (which sounds like some kind of accident).  In plain language:  $2.5 million for a trenched pipe that carries the waste water 2 kilometres out to sea.

RECONCILE with the Engineers’ Report:

The numbers from the Engineers’ (Stantec) Report, (page 2), sent by the RDN (appended)  Bowser Village Wastewater Service Area Draft Design Report – April 2017:

as much as a million dollars more than the newspaper reported.

Wastewater Treatment Plant   $4,091,000
Collection System   $4,052,000
Marine Outfall (Option A or B)   $2,341,000 to $2,990,000
Permitting, Archaeological, Engineering  $788,000
TOTAL     $$11,272,000 to $11,921,000
The newspaper excluded the
Permitting, Archaeological, Engineering  cost  of  $788,000.
And other numbers vary somewhat.
These are the CAPITAL COSTS.  They do not include annual operating costs that local property owners will have to cover without federal and provincial grants.  Bowser’s population (2016) is 188.

Linguistically, what is the relationship between the words affluent and effluent?

Ironically, the archaic use of “affluent” is  (of water) flowing freely or in great quantity.  Archaic  noun: a tributary stream.

Take the Latin word fluere which means to flow.

Add “af” and you get AFFLUENT,  flowing toward.

Add “ef” and you get EFFLUENT,  flowing away from, a use that didn’t start until the mid-19th century (industrial revolution).

liquid waste or sewage discharged into a river or the sea.
“the bay was contaminated with the effluent from an industrial plant”
Ha ha!  the Affluent have clean water, affluent flowing out their kitchen taps.   And (the appended article on the floating cities (cruise ships):  the Affluent dispose of their Effluent into unregulated Canadian waters!

 POPULATION OF BOWSER, the Community contemplating the $11 million dollar sewage treatment:   The Design Report from the Engineers. page 1:

The new wastewater system being proposed will be required to service the existing developed properties in the Bowser Village Centre, and provide sufficient capacity to allow for future service to the Future Use Area. Using the 2016 population of 188, which has been extrapolated from Statistics Canada data, and applying a 5% annual growth rate, results in a 2036 design population of 499 . . . .

From the RDN, August 16, 2017 (before I knew the actual population number.  I was asking questions.):

  • It is “not for sure” that the project is going ahead.
  • The Design Report from the engineering consultants is for:

Level 2 (“secondary”) treatment.

They are recommending “Sequencing Batch Reactor” technology.   (Sandra speaking:  In general,  “batches” of sewage go through a sequence of roughly five steps referred to as:  fill, react, settle, decant and desludge.

1.   fill a tank with a batch of sewage

2.   react  it.  There are a couple of meanings.   Aerate (bubbles of oxygen to multiply aerobic bacteria; add other ingredients – – basically cause reactions that form  non-soluble compounds) which then leads to the next step . . .

3.   settle – – the non-solubles settle out

4.   decant  – – To decant is to gradually pour a liquid from one container into another, especially without disturbing the sediment.  Wine and beer makers know the term.   The water on top of the sludge exits   (*this is when it goes through the UV Reactor).   The “waste water” then travels through the sewage outfall pipe 2 kilometres out into the other container, the Salish Sea.

* Which brings up the other meaning of “React”.

UV disinfecting is included in the Design Report.  UV disinfecting replaces the use of such chemicals as chlorine to kill organisms (disinfect) the “waste water”.   UV radiation at the right dose and amount of time affects the DNA of organisms, making them incapable of reproducing.   When the “settle out” step is finished, the waste water passes through a container often called a Reactor.  It contains the UV lamps that disinfect the water.  More info:  a.   (1999; it describes UV disinfection in understandable language).  OR  b.

So a “Sequencing Batch Reactor”  takes sewage, settles out the debris and anything that can be made to sink, draws off water (decants), disinfects the water (UV radiation), and runs it out to sea through a $2.5 million “sewage outfall”.

The RDN points out that tertiary filtration is part of the proposal.  “Tertiary” means third level.    Explained above:  “primary treatment” means you put a screen over the sewer pipes to prevent solids like condoms from entering the disposal field, river, or ocean.   Secondary treatment means you go a step further (the basic RDN proposal).  Tertiary water treatment encompasses the removal of inorganic compounds like nitrogen and phosphorus, whereas  – – “Tertiary Filtration” in a Secondary treatment system is aimed at removing the fine suspended solids that don’t settle out.   The water will be run through Granular Filters, for example, silica sand, anthracite, gravel, garnet.

One last step in the sequence:

5.   desludge – – remove the sludge at the bottom of the tank.   Where will it go?

 from the Engineers’ Report, page 1:    . . .   it is hauled off-site to the French Creek Pollution Control Centre (FCPCC) for further processing.

Someday I’d like to view the “further processing”.

See below, APPENDED,  the email from the RDN that has the documents.

  • . . .  An $11 million dollar project for tax-payers and local property owners, for a local population of 188, projected to be 499 by 2036 ??

Bowser area residents have their own septic fields.   The area has pristine beaches and attracts increasing traffic.

It may be Land Developers who want sewage treatment, financed by Federal, Provincial grants; and by local residents  (by all tax-payers)?

Makes me wonder two things:

      how are tax-payers going to cover the cost of sewage treatment for everyone in the country?   Fair is fair.

      the bigger question:   how is it that sewage treatment in First Nations communities with far larger populations isn’t funded?


(coming – – the obvious alternative makes economic sense.  What the RDN is proposing makes no economic or practical sense that I can see.)


RAW SEWAGE, WEST COAST WATERS  (a couple of examples):


  • Cruise on down to our dumping ground

. . .    the ship’s owners admitted fouling Canadian waters three times. The infractions cost Celebrity Cruises $100,000 in fines in Washington. In Canada, it paid nothing.

“The excuse was, ‘We’ll pay the fine in Washington but we won’t pay the fine in Canada because Canada doesn’t care,'” said Ross Klein, a social-work professor at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and a leading critic of the cruise industry. “Even if you’re brain-dead, it’s obvious if you’ve got to follow regulations in California, Washington, and Alaska, and you don’t in Canada, what are you going to do in Canada? That in itself speaks volumes.”

The Mercury’s inconsistent treatment is indicative of how the cruise industry has evolved on the Pacific coast, with each jurisdiction applying its own standards to the ships. At one end of the run is Alaska, which, thanks to an August 2006 referendum, has by far the toughest laws. At the other end is Washington state, which has a memorandum of understanding with the industry that is at least strong enough to allow the state to fine ships like the Mercury when they dump in Washington waters.

In the middle is B.C., which depends on its federal government to protect the coast. Canada has never fined a cruise ship for a violation and is unlikely to do so under current guidelines. “It’s a green light to empty your holding tank between Washington state and Alaska,” Klein said. Canada’s weak guidelines and lack of enforcement send a clear message to cruise-ship owners about how they are to regard B.C., he said. “It means it’s the toilet bowl.”

THE MERCURY IS JUST one of 33 Vancouver-based cruise ships that will be churning through B.C. on the Alaska run this summer, which actually kicked off on April 8 with the arrival of the Zaandam. Altogether, they will make about 300 trips and carry an estimated 930,000 passengers, each paying an average of $1,500, up the coast and back. Many of the ships carry more than 2,000 people, making them the equivalent of floating cities, with all the consumer needs and wastes you would expect from a luxury resort of that size. (The next generation of ships, the first of which will be ready in 2009, will carry more than 8,000 passengers. Besides the liquid waste, each person on a cruise produces 3.5 kilograms of garbage per day, Klein said, much more than they would in their land-based lives.) Much of the ships’ time in the province will be in the confined waters of Hecate Strait, the Inside Passage, and between Vancouver Island and the mainland.

“There is a great concern that Canada could become a dumping ground,” said Fred Felleman, a Seattle-based researcher who consults on cruise-ship issues for the Bluewater Network, a national organization fighting marine pollution. With the relatively contained waters and vulnerable whale populations, he said, that’s a worry. “I don’t believe there’s any place we should be dumping sewage sludges, but if you have to dump sludges, you don’t want to do it in the Inside Passage.”

But the current rules are likely making it more and more attractive for the cruise companies to do just that. “It’s going to be Haro Strait, Georgia Strait, or Queen Charlotte Sound, would be my guess.”

CONCERNS:  how little we know – –



Sent: August 16, 2017 5:10 PM
To:  (Sandra Finley)
Cc: Alexander, Randy
Subject: Bowser Village Centre Wastewater Project

Greetings Sandra,

Thank you for your phone call today regarding the Bowser Village Centre Wastewater Project.  I have forwarded your comments to the project team.

As discussed, this email is to provide some additional resources.

The proposed system design will provide secondary treatment through Sequencing Batch Reactor technology, with added UV disinfection of the treated effluent. The treatment technologies and treatment levels in the design were selected to meet and exceed federal and provincial regulatory requirements. The “Bowser Village Wastewater Service Area Draft Design Report – April 2017” describes the technologies considered, including tertiary filtration. (See Technical Memo 1, pages 175-194 of the PDF linked above.) The Wastewater Treatment System FAQ sheet provides information about the proposed treatment system as well.

Please note project updates and resources are available at


Deanna McGillivray

Special Projects Coordinator, Wastewater Services

Regional District of Nanaimo

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