Washington state congressional delegation writes to British Columbia about raw sewage

Members of Washington state’s congressional delegation have called on British Columbia Premier Christy Clark to expedite a plan to end the dumping of raw sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

In the letter of urgency sent Friday, the lawmakers were weighing on Victoria dumping raw sewage into the Strait directly across from the North Olympic Peninsula at the rate of 34 million gallons a day.

“Due to the importance of these waters to both our countries, we ask that you work promptly to resolve this issue,” they said.

Rep. Derek Kilmer, a Port Angeles native and Gig Harbor Democrat whose 6th Congressional District includes Clallam and Jefferson counties, joined Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Reps. Rick Larson, Denny Heck, Suzan DelBene, Jim McDermott and Adam Smith — also all Democrats — in signing the letter.

“We welcome ongoing collaboration on restoration, research and preservation efforts to best serve our people and our waterways,” they said.

Kilmer is bidding for a second term in this year’s elections and faces three opponents in the Aug. 5 primary.

“I have fond memories of fishing and clamming” while growing up in Port Angeles, he said Friday.

“I do not want to have to worry about raw sewage causing problems with the natural ocean habitat.”

Kilmer said the British Columbia government should ensure local communities follow national and international standards.

B.C. commitment

“The government of B.C. had plans to get this done and should not back out of that commitment,” he said.

“This letter is a call to action. I want to see this problem get solved.”

Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee sent a letter demanding that Clark act after more than 20 years of promises to treat the waste beyond simply using screens.

“Delaying this work to 2020 is not acceptable,” Inslee said.

Victoria is one of the few remaining Canadian cities that do little to treat their sewage.

It now flows into the Strait from two sewage outfalls at Clover Point in Victoria.

Esquimalt refusal

Last month, Clark’s government refused to force the Victoria-area municipality of Esquimalt to accept the regional district’s plans to locate a proposed $783 million ($721.6 million U.S.) treatment facility on the shores of the community.

The plan was to have the raw sewage undergo treatment by 2020 from McLoughlin Point near the entrance to Victoria Harbour.

The Capital Regional District is trying to keep the plan alive at McLoughlin Point.

If the government cooperative is unsuccessful, it could add between $60 million and $100 million Canadian to treat Victoria’s sewage with more than an outfall screen.

Fishing jobs

Friday’s letter said untreated pollution from Victoria threatens more than 67,000 commercial fishing jobs in Washington, is linked to decreased dissolved oxygen levels and also can have “dire” health consequences.

“While significant treatment efforts have been made on the United States side of our maritime border, the effectiveness of these efforts is undermined without cross-border collaboration, treatment, and restoration activities,” the letter said.

Earlier this week, B.C.’s environment minister, Mary Polak, said the sewage treatment will happen.

“This is not up for debate,” she said in a statement.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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