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Seattle Times letters to the editor

June 12, 2014 at 1:53 PM

Victoria Sewage: Big response from B.C. residents taking issue with Seattle Times editorial

Victoria’s unofficial mascot, Mr. Floatie, speaks to the media at a 2006 press conference on Victoria sewage. Though James Skwarok hung up his suit when it appeared Vancouver Island would build a sewage treatment plant, he has since come out of retirement for a “second movement.” (Photo by Bruce Stotesbury/ Victoria Times Colonist)

A decades-long effort to build a plant to treat Greater Victoria’s sewage  is now blocked by a local-government zoning squabble. On Sunday, The Seattle Times editorial board published an editorial, “Victoria sewage creates new stink,” that has created quite a stink of its own among our friendly neighbors to the north. The Times’ editorial was picked up by Victoria’s Times Colonist, and the issue was covered Wednesday on KING5 news. Gov. Jay Inslee has also sent a letter to B.C. Premier Christy Clark stating “concern by the lack of progress,” stressing the effect of untreated wastewater on Washington state.

Since publication of the editorial, I’ve received more than a dozen letters in response from B.C. residents, all taking issue with the editorial. They write, among other points, that current waste dumping in the Strait of Juan de Fuca has negligible impact, and the reason for opposition to the proposed plant is more due to a different type of waste: wasteful spending.

Read the best responses below, and send your opinions on the issue to letters@seattletimes.com.

Sewage treatment coming

Washington State residents can rest assured that Greater Victoria will have sewage treatment in the near future [”Victoria sewage creates new stink,” Opinion, June 8].

The governments of Canada and British Columbia have requirements in place that must be met. The province has approved a liquid-waste management plan for the region, which includes the construction of a sewage-treatment plant for Greater Victoria, and federal regulations mandate there must be sewage treatment by 2020.

I fully expect the region to meet both their provincial and federal obligations — and that proper sewage treatment will be in place.

Mary Polak, minister of environment, province of British Columbia

Seattle in no place to discuss Victoria’s issues

For a Seattle newspaper to call the Strait of Juan de Fuca “our waters” seems arrogant — let’s hear from places close to it, such as Friday Harbor and Port Angeles. And what does King Country have to do with the subject? Last I heard, Skagit and Whatcom counties were close to the strait, not King nor Snohomish counties.

The Times’ editorial is ignorant of technical factors and of a real debate about how to organize treatment of sewage, including environmental costs of moving sludge around, distributed treatment versus centralized, advancing technology, removal of heavy metals, and (mis-) management of the project.

Yes, the NIMBY factor is also a big factor, as it probably often is in Seattle. So, no surprise that Esquimalt didn’t want the plant.

Speaking of managing overblown inappropriate projects, how’s Seattle’s Big Dig going?

Keith Sketchley, Saanich B.C.

Deal needs to ensure more before plant is built

I can appreciate that, from a distance, Victoria’s sewage-treatment saga could appear as simple as it seems in The Seattle Times’ editorial. As with most things, up close the reality is more complex.

In increasing numbers, citizens are fighting back against a regional government that has wasted years and millions of dollars trying to force an inefficient, poorly sited, technically over-complex, extremely expensive secondary sewage-treatment design on us.

The Capital Region will have sewage treatment by 2020; federal law demands it. It would cost each household several hundred to a few thousand dollars a year. For that kind of investment, the region’s citizens want a better solution than the one offered. We want tertiary level treatment, and a genuine effort to reduce the carbon footprint of the system, and to maximize reclamation of the heat, water and nutrient resources in the sewage. Can you blame us? For that kind of money, we would rather put near-potable water into our shared Strait of Juan de Fuca, rather than secondary effluent still contaminated with pharmaceuticals, hormones and complex industrial chemicals. Wouldn’t you?

Janet Riddell, Victoria B.C.

Storm runoff a bigger worry

It would be hard to find a more misinformed editorial than the recent one in The Seattle Times on Victoria’s sewage treatment problems.

According to ocean scientists at the University of Victoria, there is virtually no measurable effect on the marine environment from Victoria’s sewage.

And our past regional medical health officer has confirmed there is not the slightest impact on human health from sewage in Victoria, let alone Seattle.

This is because a trillion gallons of seawater flushes through the Strait of Juan de Fuca twice a day, rapidly diluting Victoria’s sewage to undetectable levels.

Scientists tell us that the proposed sewage-treatment plant will have no measurable effect on water quality. Far better, according to them, would be to contain and treat storm runoff, which is apparently contaminated with gas and oil from cars.

In many coastal areas, including Puget Sound, this toxic runoff goes strait into the ocean. That is likely one cause of the poor water quality in Puget Sound, not Victoria’s sewage.

Victorians don’t want to spend a billion dollars on nothing more than placating misinformed public opinion, inflamed by misleading editorials such as that in The Seattle Times.

Richard Brunt, Victoria, B.C.

Project is a giant boondoggle

Recent events in Victoria are a testament to the power of the democratic process and should be lauded not criticized. The true “stink” here is the smell of billions of wasted tax dollars going up in smoke.

This waste of time and money is due to the stupidity of our elected officials who have blindly followed a guy in a turd suit (Mr. Floatie) and have not listened objectively to exceptionally qualified scientists and engineers who have spent decades in the pursuit of truth and rely on evidence-based research. They have told officials the project is ill-conceived and — based on all available evidence to date — useless.

It is tragic that The Seattle Times’ position seems to be to happily join the march of idiots and rush to weigh into this political quagmire. To date, our local planning authority has wasted close to $50 million dollars with no evidence that this project is even required. There has never been one case of a sick person, no case of a contaminated fish, and every study done has come back with the finding that the current system is working safely, efficiently and well within international guidelines for waste disposal.

Paul Scrimger, Victoria, B.C.

Comments | More in Environment | Topics: British Columbia, Christy Clark, Janet Riddell

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