Seattle newspaper proposes B.C. tourism boycott over Victoria sewage

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Image: Seaterra / Capital Region

A Seattle newspaper is suggesting a boycott of tourism in British Columbia in response to Victoria dragging its feet with constructing a $783-million sewage treatment plant.

Last week, an editorial board supported article in the Seattle Times lambasted the Capital Region’s decades-long delays with properly treating its raw sewage.

The newspaper says past protests have been “righteous” given that the City of Victoria and its suburbs release approximately 130 million litres (21 million gallons) of raw sewage into the Juan de Fuca Strait – a volume that can fill 32 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The only ‘treatment’ the sewage from 345,000 people receives is a thin filter that separates large solubles and floatables.

Threats of a tourism boycott in 1993 ended after the provincial government signed an accord with Washington State to build the facility by 2002, but it was later delayed to 2016 and again to March 2018. Recent developments, or the lack of any development, in the project have led an air of uncertainty over the project’s completion timeline.

Video of the 1993 campaign: “Mr. Floatie asks Victoria to get sewage treatment with resource recovery.”

“A regional effort, led by Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, is now back to the drawing board, looking at new sites, with an analysis due by the end of the year,” The Seattle Times wrote. “Washingtonians have heard this before, not to mention the excuses that the ‘natural flushing action’ in the Pacific waters off Victoria mitigate the hazards of untreated sewage.”

“Victoria can make those arguments with a semi-straight face only because their more conscientious neighbors on both sides of the border invested in these types of facilities decades ago.”

The sewage treatment centre was proposed for a 3.5-acre oceanside site at McLoughlin Point in the city of Esquimalt, but the municipal government rejected the required rezoning needed for the project to proceed – even with a $19 million incentive for the municipality’s coffers. The project fell due to an outcry from local residents, even though the site was formerly an oil tank farm and a distance away from residential neighbourhoods.

Fly-through animation of the now-canceled sewage treatment facility at Esquimalt.

The provincial government has refused to use legislation to override municipal governments in an effort to ensure the treatment facility is constructed.

Approximately $60 million was spent planning and designing the now-canceled proposal, which would have been built with a green roof and capacity to process 124 million litres per day of sewage.

A number of sites are now being considered, but an arduous and expensive technical assessment and public consultation process is required for each option.

“Today, the Victoria region is back to square one, with no treatment plant on the horizon,” The Seattle Times continues. “The failure is an embarrassment for stately Victoria, and it undermines the rigorous work to clean up Puget Sound.”

 

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