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Victoria Bight Contaminated 24-7

Baseline Study: Victoria Bight Contaminated 24/7

McLoughlin Plant Urgently Needed

VICTORIA, BC – An extensive Baseline Study conducted over the summer of 2016 by commercial divers and a University of Victoria scientist, with confirmed laboratory test results, reveals that the waters off Victoria Bight are being contaminated 24/7 with fecal coliforms. The Baseline Study and accompanying video released today show that water samples, sponges and swimming scallops in the area consistently tested positive for the presence of fecal coliforms and plants and animals in the benthic environment are being smothered by a layer of fine particulates.

As much as 130 million litres of raw sewage a day is pumped through 2 one meter wide pipes into Victoria Bight at Macaulay and Clover Points. This evidence shows that local currents carry the raw sewage east into Haro Strait and west towards Race Rocks. Beyond the fecal coliforms, these daily raw sewage discharges have been shown to include many other substances of concern including endocrine disruptors, heavy metals, micro-plastics, persistent organic pollutants and many other pathogens.

Fecal coliforms are a type of bacteria that live in the digestive tract of humans and other mammals and are excreted in their feces. They have been a key indicator of pollution associated with sewage discharges since 1904. In fact, Environment Canada has closed an estimated 60 square kilometres of the waters off Victoria to shellfish harvesting because of pollution from these sewage discharges.

Under normal circumstances fecal coliforms die off rapidly in seawater. But these data show that in the Victoria Bight, fecal coliform contamination of water and sea life appears to be a pervasive and chronic condition. Since fecal coliforms are short-lived in seawater, their chronic presence during the duration of this study must mean that the affected regions are being exposed to a continuous input of coliforms, and the Victoria sewage outfalls are their most likely source.

The BC government ordered Victoria to treat its sewage over 10 years ago, and a new national regulation came into effect in 2012 mandating secondary sewage treatment for Victoria by 2020.  Earlier this year, with local politicians unable to agree on a sewage treatment plant location, the province of BC appointed a special Project Board to recommend an option.  The Project Board recommendation announced September 7th is a viable option for the region and the only one that may make the 2020 deadline.

It is expected that the CRD will announce a decision based on the Project Board's recommendation on September 14th.

“This study points to a zone of contamination much larger than Environment Canada’s sanitary shellfish closure. This is yet another reason for politicians to act” said Jim McIsaac of the T. Buck Suzuki Foundation. “Ten years of talk is enough, if the CRD does not accept the Project Board’s recommendation senior levels of governments must step in and take control.”

In a video entitled “What you can’t see from above” (link below) in Victoria Bight also released today, commercial divers show comparisons between the marine environments inside Victoria Bight, where the sewer pipes lie, and the marine environment just outside the Bight. The area inside the Bight appears heavily degraded while the other area appears pristine.

Fecal coliforms usually do not cause illness in humans, but swimming scallops and other forms of shellfish that are contaminated with them are unfit for human consumption because they may harbor dangerous pathogens such hepatitis A virus that may be present in fecal contaminated waters. In the 1980’s the Canadian Food Inspection Agency seized all locally caught swimming scallops for sale at Victoria’s Fishermen’s Wharf and imposed a sanitary shellfish closure. As a result of the sewage discharges, local First Nations have also been prevented from harvesting local shellfish for decades.

 “It is argued by some that the deep, fast-flowing currents of the Strait of Juan de Fuca carry this sewage away so sewage treatment is not needed.  But clearly, this video and these data show that this is not happening,” says said James Skwarok, Coordinator with the Victoria Sewage Treatment Alliance. “The sewage discharges are having a profound impact on local marine resources that can be both seen and measured.  It is now time to move forward and stop polluting.”

The samples were collected in seawater at a depth of 30 meters (100ft) in the dry season in the absence of any meaningful storm water events to limit any wild guesses as to the source.

The Victoria Sewage Treatment Alliance (www.VictoriaSewageAlliance.ca), formed in 2004, brings interested community, labour, environmental, business, and science leaders together in support of local public sewage treatment.

The T. Buck Suzuki Foundation (www.bucksuzuki.org) was founded in 1981 by commercial fishermen and environmentalists to protect habitat, prevent pollution, and promote sustainable fisheries for future generations.

For more information:

Allan Crow, Commercial Diver, Victoria Sewage Treatment Alliance: 250-642-2588

James Skwarok, Coordinator, Victoria Sewage Treatment Alliance: 250-858-9278

Ed Ishiguro, Professor Emeritus, University of Victoria: 250-721-7071

Jim McIsaac, Executive Director, T. Buck Suzuki Foundation: 250-360-1398

 

Summary Report: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3JYwx_n7U1oYVpFZ05RLWVhLVk/view?usp=sharing

Video link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3JYwx_n7U1oblVjLXlmZmpzT0U/view?usp=sharing

Maps: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3JYwx_n7U1oM2stb2ZsN2NTT1U/view?usp=sharing

Commercial diver’s note: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3JYwx_n7U1oTDdldzVGMXQ5N1E/view?usp=sharing