The following is prompted by one local project. But it isn’t local at all!
I listened to submissions being made about a new sewage treatment plant, and joined the list of speakers.
There is a great deal of opposition to the proposal. Regardless, the project moved up the chain, and is now in Government hands for approval.
I left the meeting feeling that central issues have not been addressed in the public debate. I don’t think they are even well understood. That’s not a good place from which to make decisions with 50-year consequences.
There are extensive water networks in Canada, with a depth of understanding, thankfully.
The proposed Bowser Sewage Treatment Plant is a large opportunity to do a U-turn around the smelly issue.
I will be grateful if some of you have time for communicating this posting to others, and to those passionate about our need to protect water, who will add their input to the Ministers Responsible.
Sewage treatment for the Village of Bowser CAN become a moment that signals a much-needed shift in thinking.
I try to make water-tight arguments (below) – – even though I know from long experience: “rational” arguments do not often win the day. The brink of crisis is a far better motivator! But critical mass plays a role, too. And many of you are succinct.
Thanks to Maureen (“Comments” at bottom) for the “mystery” about microfibres in tap water from The Guardian news. Microfibres and microbeads that we and aquatic life are ingesting are not a mystery. They don’t “come from the sky”. The most likely source is liquid effluent from sewage plants. Sewage plants (nor water treatment plants) are able to remove them from water. They’re invisible to our eye. So we just drink them down, along with all the synthetic chemicals that sewage treatment cannot remove.
That’s why the proposed Bowser Sewage Treatment Plant is a huge opportunity from which to create a U-turn.
Please use the following information as you see fit.
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UPDATE: 5 developers. One has dropped out. See http://sandrafinley.ca/?p=19888
LOCAL GROUP: facebook and blog – sosbowser.ca
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Sept 12, 2017
FROM: Sandra Finley
- BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs, The Honourable Minister Responsible, Selina Robinson (mah.minister AT gov.bc.ca)
- BC Ministry of Environment, The Honourable Minister Responsible, George Heyman (env.minister AT gov.bc.ca)
- BC Green Party Leader, The Honourable Andrew Weaver (Andrew.Weaver.MLA AT leg.bc.ca)
- My BC MLA, The Honourable Michelle Stilwell (Michelle.Stilwell.MLA@leg.bc.ca)
Dear Honourable Members of the Government of B.C.,
First, I want to tell you how much I appreciate the point-of-view you are bringing to the Canadian ideal of “peace, order and good governance”.
You are making a difference, helping to forge a new relationship between governed and government. I hope you succeed. Democracy has never seemed so fragile.
Please find attached my submission . . .
THE PROPOSED BOWSER B.C. SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT
- The proposed Sequencing Batch Reactor Sewage Treatment with UV radiation, tertiary filtering, and marine disposal of liquid effluent is water-intensive technology. There are proven technologies for poop, pee and grey water that are not water intensive. With increasing populations, and water shortages, why would water-intensive technology be under consideration, when there are alternatives?
- If the Sewage Treatment Design Report is approved, we would be intentionally endorsing the addition of more carcinogens, teratogens, hormone disruptors, heavy metals and other poisons into the ocean – – when we know that marine life is already under relentless and destructive assault. Sequencing Batch Reactor Sewage Treatment with UV radiation and tertiary filtering does not attempt to remove the poisons, nor is it possible to identify and remove them.
- The effluent would be going into Georgia Strait that already receives large volumes of sewage effluent from coastal populations. And today, there are more, and larger cruise ships, small floating cities. News reports state that the cruise ships dump offshore Canada because we lack regulation and enforcement. Alaska has stringent legislation to prevent dumping in their waters. Washington state has regulation, but not to the same standard as Alaska. As I understand, the default for the ships is to dump in Canadian waters.
The proposed Bowser Sewage Treatment Plant underlines our asleep-at-the-wheel attitude.
- The proposal is clothed in fancy-sounding words. “UV radiation” enables the proponents to infer that the effluent will be treated to drinking water standards. (Point #2 – – UV radiation does not touch the odourless, colourless pollutants that we know go “down the drain”. Nor does tertiary filtration.) A “reactor” sounds potent; the chamber that houses the UV lamps is typically called a reactor – – so, fancy words that pacify, but which are irrelevant for addressing the poisoning of offshore water, cumulative impacts and bio-accumulation of poisons.
- Bowser’s water is clean. It comes directly from underground sources; a water treatment plant and delivery pipes are not factors in the cost estimate. So Bowser is not cost representative. The cost for similar communities that want the same grants as Bowser, will have the significant additional cost of a Water Treatment Plant and water lines to the users. Bowser will have the same cost, if at some point, their water has to be treated to drinking water standards before it can be used (if the underground water supply should ever become contaminated, which happens, and happens in Canada).
- A sequencing batch reactor cannot pass the economic tests, especially for the population size, and given the alternative technologies now being used (Calgary, one example). Is the Government going to provide more than $7 million in grants – – just for the sewage treatment side of the coin? How will the other side, the Water Treatment Plant and delivery infrastructure, be funded? will this be for every population of 188 residents in Canada that gets sold on the idea of a status quo sewage treatment plant?
INSERT (not in the Submission): The basic Sequencing Batch process (I think of my French press coffee-maker, or making tea with loose leaves):
- Step 1 – fill a tank with a batch of sewage. (water and tea leaves)
- Step 2 – settle out the solids.
- Step 3 – “decant” (from the word decanter. Carefully pour off the liquid, so as not to disturb the sediment (sludge) at the bottom of the tank.
- Step 4 – desludge. Empty the tank, readying it for the next batch.
UV radiation is an added step in the Bowser proposal; also tertiary filtration.
The word “tertiary” means third, as in third level sewage treatment, steps up from primary and secondary treatment. Tertiary FILTRATION (this is not tertiary TREATMENT, which wouldn’t make a difference anyway). Tertiary filtration (a granular bed) aims to make the liquid effluent less cloudy by catching suspended solids that don’t settle out. The esthetics are improved. Anything that is a part of the liquid itself, is unaffected.
Scroll down in this posting for more detail:
END OF INSERT
– – – – – – – – – – – ELABORATION – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
The proposal would have liquid effluent discharged into the Salish Sea, also known as the Strait of Georgia. The Strait is the arm of the Pacific Ocean between Vancouver Island, and the mainland coast of British Columbia, and northern Washington state.
Regional Approval received:
The Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN), Board Meeting, August 22, 2017 – approved the proposal for a Sequencing Batch Reactor Sewage Treatment Plant for the Village of Bowser on Vancouver Island, with marine disposal of the liquid effluent.
The next step is approval from two Provincial Ministries:
- Municipal Affairs (Honourable Selina Robinson, Minister)
- Environment (Honourable George Heyman, Minister)
The plan for sewage treatment for Bowser has been in the making for 25 years (as I understood the Chair of the RDN to say). I appreciate the dedication of the people who have been involved over the years. And the frustration that comes when action is elusive.
Nonetheless, the role of citizens in a democracy is to be informed, and to speak up when warranted.
THE PROPOSED SEWAGE TREATMENT TAKES US IN THE SAME DIRECTION WE’VE BEEN GOING. IF IT WAS THE RIGHT DIRECTION, THE OCEANS WOULD NOT BE IN THE STATE THEY ARE TODAY.
My first experience with marine disposal was 45 years ago, on the opposite Coast of Canada in Halifax-Dartmouth. Everything, except our thinking, has changed in the years since.
It is a tragedy, especially because there is ANOTHER OPTION (and it’s not “land disposal” of effluent).
Cities with increasing demands on the quantity and quality of water supplies are moving to technologies that mitigate. Increasing population automatically means increased demand. We are already experiencing water shortages. Water-intensive technologies belong in the past.
To recommend the use of technologies that we know will put substantially greater stress on the local water supply is kind of crazy. Approval of the Bowser initiative will establish obsolete, outrageously expensive processes for every new application that comes along.
B.C. and Canada will be exacerbating the state of the oceans, instead of contributing where we can, to making things better.
The failure to address cumulative impacts is intentional stupidity. You see it over and over in Canada. One example:
Individual smokestacks get regulated. There are religious checks to see that no one is fiddling with the monitoring devices in the plant. And the industry (one of many) trots out the mantra, “Why, this is the most-highly regulated industry in Canada!”
Nonetheless, downwind of Fort McMurray, northern Saskatchewan is “acidifying”, first acknowledged in 2003, worsening with each passing year. (The Great Lakes, prior to the negotiation in the late 1980’s of the “Acid Rain Treaty” to regulate pollution, were “acidifying”. The lakes “die”.).
Heavily regulated? . . . one smokestack in isolation, that’s how it’s done.
It’s the same story with all the synthetic chemicals. Cumulative impacts, whether of air pollution or synthetic chemicals are serious, but we look the other way. Childhood cancers increased by 25% over 25 years. Asthma rates increased by 40% over the same period.
We have developed burgeoning economies around children with health problems, and with developmental challenges (teratogenic chemicals). We don’t bother to “think”. Cell division and specialization of purpose is the same process, whether in the human or other species. Tumors in humans, tumors in fish.
The cumulative effects of coastal populations using the oceans for dumping is obvious: more and more ocean-side is closed to shellfisheries and swimming. But here we are, proposing another sewage treatment plant with marine disposal.
The largest cities on the Planet, with a few exceptions, are ocean-side. 45 years ago, when I was befuddled by the condoms and tampon tubes on the shore at Point Pleasant Park in Halifax, I learned that pretty well every community on an ocean shore in this world, uses “marine disposal”. We have to stop it.
CONVOLUTED PHRASES, RED HERRINGS AND PROPAGANDA TO BAMBOOZLE
A SEQUENCING BATCH REACTOR DOES NOTHING TO ADDRESS POTENT INGREDIENTS IN THE LIQUID EFFLUENT.
I was four years back-and-forth with Saskatoon City Council. Saskatoon is on the South Saskatchewan River.
When I heard that Saskatoon had replaced augering-out of tree roots in sewer lines with a chemical combination, Vaporooter, that dissolves tree roots, I groaned. Sure enough, Calgary and other communities, upstream and downstream of Saskatoon, had bought into contracting-out to companies that use Vaporooter. The outcome is below, but first:
THE QUESTION FOR BOWSER:
Which step in the proposed Sequencing Batch Reactor will remove the synthetic chemicals (and micro beads from personal care products like body washes?) from the effluent?
There isn’t a step and we don’t have the technology to allow us to test, to know which chemicals are in the liquid effluent.
The starting point: you have to know which chemical you are testing for, in order to know what test to run. But you don’t know what chemicals are in the effluent. You do not know what has gone “down the drain” and down the toilets in the collection system, which includes from businesses, that for example, discharge heavy metals.
We are not told:
UV Radiation, nor Tertiary Filtration, nor any of the steps in a Sequencing Batch Reactor remove these ingredients of the liquid effluent that are very harmful to living organisms.
The City of Saskatoon defended the use of a chemical combo for dissolving tree roots in sewer lines (instead of augering them out): it ordered testing of the River water for the presence of the two chemicals in Vaporooter.
What they found:
- for one of the chemicals, they could not find a lab that knew a protocol for testing for the presence of that particular chemical.
- For the other chemical, it cost $3,000 for one test, for one water sample, taken on one day, from one location. (Probably would cost more today.) . . . Guess how much testing gets done at three or four thousand dollars a pop. (That’s if you know the chemical and can find a lab that knows a protocol.)
- One of the two chemicals is a known cause of cancer.
And what is known:
- The Federal Govt (PMRA) licenses the chemicals. Cumulative impacts are not considered. Interactions between chemicals are not considered. We know about bio-accumulation and things such as mercury in tuna. And forget about it.
- Are the regulations enforced (“safe, if used according to label instructions”)? Not in my experience.
Oyster, scallop, mussel and geoduck (Pacific) / quahog (Atlantic) fisheries receive reassurances. And irrational rationalization:
a sewage treatment plant with marine disposal, even if it’s near your fishery will be better than – – remember when? – – the die off of oysters from leakage into the Strait from septic fields.
(INSERT: Instead, one person from the shellfish industry is found, who will deliver the irrational response, and No One asks:)
Why weren’t the offenders identified and fined?
- strong protective regulation
- enforcement of regulations and
- stiff fines for people who poison water
Lots of families like to swim in Georgia Strait, the Salish Sea.
The first time I swam further than Judges’ Row in Qualicum Beach, going toward French Creek, was the last time. I was new here. I didn’t know – – the water becomes skanky. Next day I scouted the bank for some explanation and found an innocuous little sign related to the sewage treatment plant.
When I swim, I get a bit of water in my mouth, eyes and ears. So do kids. The idea of the sewage grosses us out, but the invisible and odourless synthetic chemicals and heavy metals are a real threat to marine organisms and to ourselves.
NOT MARINE DISPOSAL, NOT LAND DISPOSAL, WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE?
Less Water toilet technology is old, yet new – – and helpful, or a company like Envirolet would not still be in business:
- A Canadian manufacturer of composting toilets, Envirolet, has been in business since 1977, http://www.envirolet.ca/. Take a look at “the new”. You may be surprised!
- Reference CBC article, 2008, The Amazing Composting Toilet
- My experience, composting toilets, is with the Eco Centre on the highway between Saskatoon and Regina at Craik, SK. It opened in 2004 with composting toilets. The public washrooms were lovely. Well-designed. The composting worked very well; the manure went onto the golf course. (The Centre unfortunately burnt down in 2016, amid controversy.)
- The “old”: I was in China in 1988. There, human manure is known as “night soil”. For centuries the buckets were emptied on the fields at night. (Our soils are being depleted in one lifetime.)
WHAT’S FAIR IS FAIR: DO THE FEDERAL AND PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS PROPOSE TO GIVE $7.6 MILLION TO EVERY GROUP OF 188 RESIDENTS THAT DESIRES STATUS QUO SEWAGE TREATMENT? (NO OFFENCE TO THE RESIDENTS OF BOWSER. I THINK THEY’RE BEING RAIL-ROADED.)
$7.6 MILLION DOLLARS IN GRANT MONEY ON THE LINE. TOTAL CAPITAL COST AND POPULATION NUMBERS.
POPULATION: The Engineers’ Report specifies that the cost estimate
is for 188 residents, projected to grow to 499 residents by 2036.
DISCREPANCY, TOTAL CAPITAL COST (NEWSPAPER, ENGINEERS’ REPORT)
Newspaper, where people obtain their information. I was told that the figures quoted in the Newspaper were supplied by the Regional Authority (RDN)).
The total capital cost quoted is $10.7 million.
But the Engineers’ (Stantec) Report, sent to me by the RDN Bowser Village Wastewater Service Area Draft Design Report – April 2017, see page 2,
total capital cost is: $11,272,000 to $11,921,000
As much as a million dollars more than the newspaper report. The newspaper number excludes 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. As mentioned, the Engineers’ Report is based on 188 residents, projected to be 499 by 2036. It seems to me that a discrepancy of a million dollars in the cost estimate is a serious matter for a village of this size.
Pricing themselves out of their own homes.
THE GRANT. Is it coercion or bribery or mere largesse?
Newspaper: The Bowser Village Wastewater Servicing Project was awarded a Clean Water and Wastewater Fund Grant of around $7.6 million last March.
This federal and provincial funding initiative is only good for one year.
The message: Residents of Bowser, you will be throwing away $7.6 million dollars, if you don’t sign up and get this project approved. Pronto!
Note re “Clean Water and Wastewater” Grant:
The residents of Bowser are proud of the pure, clean water they draw from their wells.
The point at which pure, clean water becomes sewage:
Suddenly, at the moment you remove the plug in the drain, or flush the toilet, what came out your tap is no longer “water”.
Instantly, it becomes “sewage” or “waste water”. “Waste” implies that we throw it away.
But (and you see this more clearly if you live in a city on a River) we don’t get “new” water. It just keeps recycling. In the River example, a person in Calgary flushes the toilet. The once “pure clean” water then goes through a “waste water treatment plant” and back into the River.
The “water plant” downstream in Medicine Hat takes water from the River, treats it to drinking water standard, and delivers it to the residents through the water lines. A person in Medicine Hat turns on the tap, or flushes the toilet. . . .
There it goes again, through a “waste water treatment plant” and back into the River. Over and over it goes, down the length of the River across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Meanwhile, we just keep pumping the toxins (poisons) into the water and expect there are no long term consequences. We just keep pumping out air pollutants, warming the ocean surface; the angry waters of the hurricanes shout: it’s time for change, folks!
Even if the cost of testing for the presence of all the various chemicals that contaminate our water supplies was not prohibitive; even if a test existed for each chemical, even if we actually tested and regulated what’s “going down the drain”, the evolved composting toilets are much more cost effective. And, we could start to reverse the rate at which we turn good clean water into sewage.
If it was an individual, and not “The Government” footing the bill, I have a hard time believing that the sewage treatment plant proposal would be on the table.
I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of conversations I’ve had with people who are informed, and see the way forward is through alternative, new technology.
LACK OF DATA
How many civilizations have fallen because they salinized their fields?
What happens when we today,
Convert large quantities of fresh water into salt water, in a daily continuous process? “Marine disposal” is used around the planet. Throw fresh water into an ocean and you have salt water. Not useable.
We are counting on the rain-evaporation cycle to return at least some of our surface and ground water supplies back to us.
Does Bowser know the recharge rate for the underground water supply it taps into? Does it know current, cumulative withdrawals? And the projected withdrawals that will occur with population expansion? No decisions should be taken without supporting data to know whether the withdrawals will (or not) place Bowser where Salt Spring is.
I may be speaking out of turn: I have not looked into the number of “monitoring wells” for ground water on Vancouver Island. I know that in a land mass the size of Saskatchewan, Government and scientists back in the public service days of the 1940’s, set up 100 monitoring wells. Some places have base line data. Not nearly enough, what with oil and gas, fracking and how little we know about flows of water between aquifers. One thousand monitoring wells would be more appropriate.
One sector in our society has responsibility for protecting our water resource: the Government. IF it truly does that in B.C., there will be available data.
If you don’t have base line data, the experience of people west of Saskatoon (and elsewhere): there is no recourse if you end up without water. Large volumes of water were pumped from underground for industrial purposes. Area springs and artesian wells stopped flowing. Cause-and-effect was denied. Citizens had “no proof”.
Withdrawals from aquifers in Arizona to water orange groves and golf courses lowered the water table substantially. The number of oases (green, with available water) in the surrounding desert plummeted in the period 1950 to 1980.
In B.C., in 2017, we know enough that any decision taken is
conscious, and intentional.
When I was young there were 2 billion people on the Planet. We could get away with things; the Earth had the capacity to deal with what we did to it.
More than 7 billion people cannot get away with what was done back then. We act as though the world has not changed.
BOWSER IS NOT REPRESENTATIVE
The proposed Bowser project is not representative of the cost of sewage treatment in smaller communities. (Total capital cost of approximately $11 million for a village of 188 residents, projected to be 499 by 2036.)
A sewage plant has to have sewage to process. Normally, in order to have the infrastructure for sewage collection and a treatment plant, you first build a water treatment plant and the infrastructure for delivering water to households and businesses.
The Capital Costs for Bowser do not include a water treatment plant and the installation of water lines. Residents draw clean water directly from underground sources.
As I understand, Bowser people balked at paying a one-time fee of $38,000 for their share of the Sewage Treatment. To win over the residents, the developers committed $2 million from their profits, which reduced the amount payable by the locals down to $2,900 each, generally speaking.
If it should happen in the future that their water has to be treated before it can be used, they will have the additional cost of a water treatment plant and water lines.
At some point, local people are responsible for decisions that price themselves out of their homes.
IF THE SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT IS APPROVED, IS IT MANDATORY FOR EVERYONE? (CAN A RESIDENT OPT OUT?) Experience of a friend: once approved, no one can opt out. Is that the case for Bowser?
WHAT THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE SUBSIDIZING: there should be a grant for helping the village convert to the new generation of composting toilets.