Sewage treatment opponents go on the offensive

Association wants environmental impact assessment to prove $782-million sewage project is necessary

John Newcomb

The Capital Regional District should request an exemption under new federal regulations that require it to build a sewage treatment system, says a local group opposed to the project.

The Association for Responsible and Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment (ARESST) believes the current system of pumping screened sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca is safe and effective.

The group held a press conference at Clover Point on Monday and called on the CRD to refuse to begin construction unless an environmental impact assessment can prove the current system is causing harm.

“What annoys scientists is when people pretend to be doing things for scientific reasons when they’re not,” said prof. Chris Garrett of the University of Victoria’s Earth and Ocean Sciences Department.

The federal government’s Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations were announced last week and require all municipalities to meet a threshold for sewage treatment. They estimate 25 per cent of municipalities across the country will require sewage treatment upgrades to comply.

Former federal environment minister David Anderson said the regulations are too broad and need to be adjusted for regions like Greater Victoria that treat their sewage by alternative means.

“If the federal government decided to have the same snow removal requirements for Victoria as in Quebec, we would call that ridiculous,” Anderson said.

But CRD board chair Geoff Young said the regulations are “here to stay” and the region has no plans to apply for an exemption.

Any delay could also risk losing the combined $500-million promised from higher levels of government for the project, he said.

“It very clear through new regulations that the discharge of raw sewage is not going to be something that the governments are prepared to accept.”

dpalmer@vicnews.com