New laws may end need for land-based treatment

Ottawa’s proposed regulations could be met with current system

Arnold Brandon
Times Colonist
July 23, 2010
http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/laws+need+land+based+treatment/3312...

In January, the federal government produced a draft document for
public consultation titled Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations.
This document should be required reading in Greater Victoria, because
it undercuts the notion that the federal government requires exclusive
land-based sewage treatment for the Victoria area.

The federal government has finally spoken on the acceptability of
discharging effluent into tidal waters.

A draft for public consultation is a preliminary step, prior to the
introduction of legislation. Its purpose is to provide an early look
at intended government policy and the legislation that will follow. It
offers an opportunity for affected bodies and individuals to review
and comment on the proposed legislation.

The document appears highly complex at first and addresses all water
bodies under federal jurisdiction throughout most of Canada — rivers,
lakes and oceans.

From the capital region’s perspective, the document provides policies
that require meeting standards and submitting reports in four primary
areas:

  • Daily volume of effluent discharge into the sea (expressed in cubic metres);
  • Suspended solids contained in the effluent (measured in milligrams per litre);
  • Oxygen demand created by the suspended solids; and
  • Concentration of ammonia and chlorine contained within the effluent.

From a superficial standpoint, it would appear these requirements
would easily be met by the Capital Regional District. This would
certainly obviate the need for any land-based secondary treatment.

The regulations clearly permit depositing effluent in tidal waters,
under specific conditions.

The document also wisely calls for studies on the effects on the fish
population and the benthic invertebrate community (the population of
the ocean floor, such as shellfish and shrimp). If the limits
suggested in the four noted reports are found to be acceptable, the
prescribed standards should be easily accommodated.

The CRD has been in the sewage monitoring business for many years and
no doubt has on hand the reporting data required. Have these
regulations been addressed? Has known data been applied to these
regulations?

A more pertinent question: Has the CRD waste management committee been
aware of these impending regulations that will come into force in the
“near future,” or has it discounted them as inapplicable?

Also, has Environment Minister Barry Penner addressed these coming
regulations in light of their federally noted environmental
acceptability? If discounted, have the economic implications placed on
the provincial government and the Victoria community been taken into
consideration?

In fairness, it is understandable that the eyes of nonprofessional
persons would tend to glaze over after 30 minutes’ study of these
regulations. They are in standard government language, never intended
as light reading.

However, the document means what it says and its implications
shouldn’t be taken lightly.

The CRD, its staff and the waste committee should subject the document
to an intense analysis. This examination will determine the inverse
environmental and financial impact land-based facilities will have on
their areas of responsibility, together with the true value of the
present method of effluent disposal.

The essential message? As Hippocrates in ancient Greece might have
said, dispose of your waste as you will, but do not harm.

Arnold Brandon is a retired RCMP officer whose assignments, for many
years in Ottawa, included the analysis of federal department drafts of
proposed regulations and policies.