Last week the Capital Regional District gave what it believes is the definitive answer to the “why now” question with regard to sewage treatment: the federal government says we have to, based on measurements of toxicity and chemical compounds in the waters around our sewage outfalls.
As we discovered from reader reactions to our recent Sewage in the CRD series, many people are still unconvinced that there is a proven scientific need for the CRD to treat the wastewater produced in Colwood, Langford, Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations, Esquimalt, Saanich, Victoria and Oak Bay.
When a collection of scientists who have spent years studying the ocean and the life cycle of its inhabitants say the current method of disposing of our sewage is not causing deleterious harm to either marine or human health, many people in our communities have tended to believe them over bureaucrats.
Others have long moved on from the question of “do we need to treat now?” and taken the long view that says we’ll need to treat our sewage eventually, so let’s just get going on it now.
We believe there are still many residents who are eyeballing the ongoing increases in their sewage-related fees and taxes and are taking a wait and see attitude over the whole issue.
On the surface the points-based nature of the federal regulations, and the fact our numbers are far too high to allow us more time to get a treatment program in place, would seem to shut the door on the “why” part of the discussion. But there remain people who argue that the measurement format is a broad-brush approach that doesn’t take into account the special nature of our receiving environment, the fast-moving Juan de Fuca Strait.
So where do people go from here? Community members in Esquimalt and Victoria continue to rally against placing treatment plants in their neighbourhoods, putting both locations on shaky ground.
For those who want to continue arguing that our wastewater disposal situation isn’t what the feds or anyone else would make it out to be, the federal confirmation that we have to do it to lower our health risk factor makes their mission that much tougher.
It’s easy to see why this issue has gone back and forth for so many years in Greater Victoria. We get a sense that the involvement of the provincial government in the project is a subtle way of saying to the CRD, just get it done.