Editorials

Please, Victoria, clean up your poop

For more than two decades, Washington officials have tried different tactics in trying to get British Columbia, ahem, off the chamber pot and start treating Victoria’s sewage.

Every day, the provincial capital flushes more than 34 million gallons of raw effluent into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the body of water between Washington state and British Columbia. Washington leaders have cajoled, pleaded, shamed, bargained – and even threatened their otherwise genteel neighbors to the north with a tourism boycott.

Last year, a frustrated Gov. Jay Inslee reminded British Columbia Premier Christy Clark that Washington’s support for the B.C.’s bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympics was based partly on Victoria committing to finally start treating its sewage. Plans to build a $721 million treatment plant at Esquimalt, near Victoria, fell through when the municipality refused to issue a permit. Clark’s government didn’t press the issue.

Now a glimmer of activity is on the horizon. The Vancouver Sun reports that 27 sites in the Greater Victoria area are being considered for at least a secondary treatment plant or a network of small plants with plans to whittle down the list by the end of the month.

Based on public feedback, eight of the sites had “a high level of support with mild dissent.” Another group is looking at sites to the west and says it has identified 20 possible locations.

The Canadian federal and provincial governments have committed to paying two-thirds of the $788 million (Canadian dollars) cost, with the rest coming from local taxpayers.

But Victoria has been down this road before and stalled, so we’ll believe treatment might finally happen when a plant opens.

Until that comes to pass, we applaud U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, for trying something different. He inserted a provision in a bill passed out of the House Appropriations Committee recently that would keep the pressure on. It encourages the U.S. State Department to work with their Canadian counterparts to ensure that treatment does, indeed, happen.

State pressure hasn’t worked so well. If the latest siting effort falls through, getting a little federal backup might help.

Washingtonians enjoy visiting Victoria, but many are getting fed up with a city that seems content with being the loo of British Columbia. Perhaps its citizens should ask themselves, “What would Queen Victoria do?”

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