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Peninsula Daily News
VICTORIA — The Capital Regional District is a regional agency of local governments encompassing Victoria and other communities surrounding the British Columbia capital.
It's the CRD that's responsible for developing secondary sewage treatment, as ordered by Ottawa, to end the flushing of raw effluent, industrial chemicals, detergents and other nasty matter from down the drain into the depths of the Strait of Juan de Fuca as Victoria has since the days of the Hudson's Bay Co.
Currently, two large outfalls, each about 3 feet in diameter, only have screens to filter out bulk matter.
One extends from a beach near the entrance to Victoria Harbour nearly a mile into the Strait and discharges effluent on the bottom about 200 feet deep.
Ironically, the MV Coho ferry from Port Angeles crosses over that outfall, but because the discharge is so deep, it's not visible from the surface because underwater currents flow the effluent out to the Pacific.
The other outfall, about a mile east of the harbor entrance, extends 3,800 feet into the Strait and discharges on the bottom at a depth of about 220 feet.
Its effluent, too, is carried by underwater currents and nothing is visible.
A $783 million sewage treatment plant at Esquimalt, to the west of the harbor entrance, has been proposed by the CRD to start operating in 2018.
A total of $253 million has been pledged from Ottawa, and the province said it will ante $248 million.
Residents in the Victoria area would be picking up the remaining tab for something they're not now paying for.
And that is the crux of a meeting Tuesday of the CRD's sewage committee.
It begins at 10:30 a.m. in the CRD boardroom (sixth floor) at 625 Fisgard St. in Victoria.
The committee will consider two motions that could delay the project until 2040 by demanding that the Canadian government in Ottawa reclassify the region as a lower risk for sewage pollution.
The panel was supposed to vote two weeks ago, but delayed it after a large group of people — most opposed to the plan — spent two hours delivering public statements to the committee.
Although there's been surprisingly little outfall outcry from this side of the border — including the cities of Port Angeles, Sequim and Port Townsend, each of which has more sewage treatment than the Victoria area (population 359,000) — the Victoria business and tourism industry has risen in opposition to any delay.
Tourism Victoria and the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce issued a joint statement Friday in favor of building the treatment plant.
“The fact we're even considering stalling it is ludicrous,” chamber CEO Bruce Carter told reporters in Victoria.
The region prides itself on protecting the environment, he said, and dumping sewage into the ocean is unacceptable.
Environmental groups are also heating up against any delay, saying the CRD would face legal challenges over fisheries issues if it postpones sewage treatment.
Mr. Floatie — who crossed the border to appear at a Port Angeles City Council meeting in 2005 to call attention to the provincial capital's lack of sewage treatment — was shown the door at a rally of about 1,300 organized by the Green Party to promote a legislative candidate in an upcoming election.
Environmental activist James Skwarok donned his costume of the happy-faced feces in a sailor's hat to renew his support of a planned $783 million sewage-treatment plant to stem the flow of untreated sewage into the Strait.
Sensing shifting political winds as Victorians face huge tax bills to pay for the project, candidates are calling for its cancellation.
The Green Party legislative candidate apparently opposes it, as do his two opponents for Parliament in Ottawa. There's also a proposal to delay the project's implementation from 2018 to 2040.
“If not now, when?” asked Mr. Floatie, who once tried to run for Victoria mayor — as Mr. Floatie. He was thwarted by the courts.
Skwarok said his ouster at the Greens' rally didn't really matter.
Fans of Mr. Floatie apparently agreed.
The costumed figure took several photographs with tourists and passers-by outside the convention center next to the Fairmont Empress hotel.
The issue: Victoria pumps about 35 million gallons of raw sewage into the Strait daily.
The debate has been raging for decades.
Environmentalists and scientists on both sides of the border say Victoria is polluting the ocean.
But municipal leaders in Victoria, citing other scientists, have said the Strait acts as a natural flushing toilet that disperses waste with minimal environmental impact.
With this debate, is Mr. Floatie making a comeback?
“I wasn't there to make a big stink,” Skwarok said of his attempt to crash the Greens' rally.
“I was there to make a point . . . that household and other toxic substances in our sewage will only accumulate over time in marine sediments and marine organisms.
“I don't think we should wait until it's too late.”