Stop dumping your &#*! in our shared waters, Victoria

The News TribuneJune 16, 2014 

Victoria’s Inner Harbour hides a dirty secret: The city dumps 34 million gallons of raw sewage daily into Northwest waters.

STAFF FILE PHOTO, 2013

This is getting old, Victoria.

Once again, a Washington governor has to remind our fair neighbor to the north that it needs to clean up its act and stop dumping 34 million gallons of raw sewage daily into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the waters between this state and British Columbia.

Few other Canadian cities dispose of their sewage so irresponsibly. Just think what the uproar would be if an American city dumped that much raw sewage into waters bordering Canada.

Although shaming Victoria for dumping its waste hasn’t worked so far, Gov. Jay Inslee is right to keep the pressure on British Columbia. He’s written Premier Christy Clark demanding that she require Victoria — the province’s capital — to treat its sewage. There had been plans to build a $721 million treatment plant at Esquimalt, near Victoria, but that municipality refused to issue a permit. So far Clark’s government has refused to force the issue.

Inslee reminded Clark in his June 10 letter that British Columbia is reneging on its part of the deal that helped win Washington state’s support for the province to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. In return for that backing from then Gov. Chris Gregoire, the Canadians agreed that Victoria would commit to treating its sewage.

Inslee said Puget Sound’s 3.5 million residents have waited long enough: “It is now more than 20 years since your Province agreed to implement wastewater treatment in Greater Victoria,” wrote Inslee. “Delaying this work to 2020 is not acceptable.” On Friday, most of Washington’s congressional delegation sent a similar letter to Christy.

We’re not saying B.C. is a welsher; that would be unfair to the Welsh — lovely people who have invested heavily in treating their sewage.

Some scientists in British Columbia argue that disposing of sewage the way Victoria does is no big deal, that the ocean flushes it all out very nicely. But not everyone in the area agrees. The Victoria Sewage Treatment Alliance says the currents keep much of the sewage near where it’s dumped or move it east — toward Washington. And dilution doesn’t get rid of such contaminants as heavy metals, chemicals and pathogens.

The alliance also notes that toxicity tests on fish using Victoria’s sewage killed them within 20 minutes, while fish routinely survived for more than 96 hours in identical tests using pulp mill effluent.

Victoria makes a lot of money off tourists playing up its bygone-era charm. But when it comes to how it handles its sewage, quaint doesn’t cut it. The city needs to come into the 21st — or at least the 20th — century.

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